Ralph Bousquet


Settle down.    Say it again,

but not aloud.                    Settle down.


There is a freeway outside your window

that never stops breathing,                     but one day

you will stop breathing.      Your body

practices in your sleep,                        suffocates

you awake, arteries fleeing out

toward your fingertips,             veins dragging

them back.                   Your aorta stands in your chest

a ruined skyscraper,                                    full of holes

and leaning and it’s a miracle,                                          you think,

that anyone still lives there.     As you wake

it surges and leaks light.          As you sit up

it falls against your sternum and throbs

with electrified haywire.

This body is held

together with improvised attention.             This psyche

is held together by a distancing you, a pronoun

praying that some other pronoun

maybe feels this pain, too,        praying to the god

of precision suffering who presides over

all these little hurts you haven’t yet

thought up names for,             praying for the post-post trauma,

praying for sleep,

but not aloud.


BIO: Ralph Bousquet is a poet and gravedigger from Cape Cod, Massachusetts. His poems have been published in Narrative and Ponder Review. He has received scholarships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, MA and Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference.