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Flicking Ash

by Graham Isaac

If art never saved anything—

the balcony view of a rain-damaged alley
you stood there in last night’s sweater
shivering, smoking,

flicking ash over the side with black fingernails
and told me you were going home.
all this reading about war, torture and genocide
was crawling up your back and down again.

i stood in the doorway watching the glass
fog and unfog
shaking in my grabbed-from-the-floor t-shirt,
hands still warmer than yours,

If art never saved anything--

in your pencil-sketch of me
when I found time to start Ulysses
i look like a tired old man.
not to say it doesn’t represent
rather, it’s probably too honest.

that night you took off your shirt
showed me the rigid whitepink marks
you razored into yourself years
and not-so-years ago.
my eyes popped like balloons
as i fingered your ridged right arm.

later you took those black fingernails
and tore my back to ribbons.

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