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by Peter Coe Verbica

I condemn five hundred

of my closest friends

to death.

Left them on the sidewalk

to freeze in the rain

under a plastic tarp.

I am too ashamed to even

look out the window.

Only Brazil can understand

my sadness

with her science museum

in flames.

The following afternoon

there is no evidence

of my trips down the stone steps

and the boxes of books

I stacked in front of my home.

Part of me had hoped

that no one would want them.

But someone did.

Perhaps some students came

with a truck,

figuring out a way to earn a buck.

Only Brazil can understand

my regret.

This loss of words.

Now just the skeleton

of her science museum is left:

a naked outline in the sky.

The stink of burnt hides,

smoking bird feathers

and smoldering wood

infuses the air with heaviness.

Firemen talk with each other,

drinking coffee from paper cups.

‘My friends! My friends!

Why have I forsaken you?

I hope that you are in heaven now,’

I lament with self-indulgent hyperbole.

I envision the afterworld

as a three-story open-room library

with rolling ladders,

stuffed leather chairs, antique globes

and muted chandeliers.

My friends! Warm and comfortable

on the shelves.

Someday, like a father

who has lost a son,

a part of me will join you.

And someone may

find my life story in a book.

The thick and thin of it.

Hands from the future

will hold what’s left of me.

Eyes will gaze into

the pages of who I am.

And another soul may echo

the sorrow I feel

condemning to death

five hundred

of my dearest friends.

But for now,

only Brazil understands —



and shutterless.

Peter Coe Verbica grew up on a commercial cattle ranch in Northern California. He obtained a BA and JD from Santa Clara University and an MS from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is married and has four daughters.


November 2018

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