In Time of War

by Carolyn Forché

Carolyn Forché

And so we stayed, night after night awake
until the moon fell behind the blackened cypress,
and bats returned to their caverns having gorged
on the night air, and all remained still until the hour
of rising, when the headless woman was no longer seen
nor a ghostly drum heard, nor anyone taking
the form of mist or a fiddler, and the box never opened
by itself, nor were there whispers or other sounds, no rustling
dress or pet ape trapped in a secret passage, but there was
labored breathing, and unseen hands leafing through
the pages of a visitor’s book, and above the ruins a girl
in white lace, and five or more candles floating,
and someone did see a white dog bound into a nearby
wood, but there were neither bagpipes nor smiling skull,
no skeletons piled in the oubliette, and there was,
as it turned out, no yellow monkey, no blood
leaking from a slit throat, and no one saw
a woman carrying the severed head,
but there were children standing on their own
graves and there was the distant rumble of cannon.

In the Lateness of the World

Last updated December 01, 2022