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Issue 151

halflife
by Jenine Marsh

red bulbs in all my lamps
attempt at warmth

but achieve a kind of seething

red within black
backburner/slow-cooker/low cinder
like the sun in closed eyes
paired in paired sockets
turn circles into spheres
superimposed and spiralling
alone at the centre
of a living universe
where new experience
requires new senses

but in my gridlock of five

a list is all I can handle:
tarot tells me Courage
time tells me Manage
fall tells me Succumb

but where will I spread these ashes?

in small heavy days
wide hours diluted
sun squinting from low
and then lower
until I have
just one thought left:
no thing has no end

but in all my books

not read past the intro
in split ends stuttered
on table, chest, and floor

is the halflife

in dust drifting
fading
this soft-edged self
remains strangely
diminished but sustaining
a lack’s accumulation
like pennies
small values
dead weight in the purse
wasting away

but still something

not nothing
but nothing left
a mineral garden
of finitude’s fiction
something tells me it’s already over

but winter tells me Wait

this is the longest season

but time is not a length
but a weight

a pendulum planet
of rusted iron
and saltwater thirst
rocked by tides rolling
down orbit’s curve, descending
approaching toward

but never reaching

the dry shore
on all fours I go
mudlarking in silt
sifting and scratching
for source and seed
for vinegar’s mother
uranium in a pill
I drag them out
root and stem
from fortunes, disinherit
or accept the poison cure
on all fours forage
for an altered inheritance
a coin made of mercury
for currencies buried
by current’s reversal
I am bargaining now
to drop the remainder
for as cells divide to double
loss by division
never reaches zero

but

in the instant before blackout
is the forest fire
red-gold
blood-burnt
glow
of the last
sunrise
set
or burn
last cent
last radiance/radiation
of a day already spent
as the ember is
already
an end
extended

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