Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Mill (Max Beckmann)

The erected a scaffold of tar, then strapped us
one by one to the sails
and turned the crank. The faster we spun
the more the blood sped to our heads.
We squeezed our eyes shut tight
but the wind kept prying them open,
forcing us to watch the same scene
blurring past over and over.
Inside the black wheels turned,
teeth grinding the grain, the corn,
the bones.

They built a birdcage of lightning-scorched limbs
lashed together with lengths of burnt wick,
then papered the floor with pages torn
from the Torah. They threw in a pair
of billing, cooing songbirds with clipped wings
then hung the cage from a bough
beside the river
so the raptors could perch and stick
their talons and beaks between
the splintery bars.

They built a machine of stained glass
and black ash, pistons dripping lymph
and rancid grease.
They emptied the overflowing tubs,
dragged a mop halfheartedly back and forth
across the wooden floor, decorated the racks
with earrings and gold and silver fillings.
A single lock of hair curled up to hide
behind the stiff tongue of a shoe.
They filled the hopper with smoldering coals
to cause the waterfall to boil,
a rippling skin of waves and flames
fanned by a hot wind, our final breaths.

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