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We found their shells in the oldest oaks,
backs blown open where they’d fled themselves.
That was all that remained of them, like the clothes
of the girl the search party finds hanging
on a black branch, white clothes
they bring back to her mother, folded.
There was always a moment before
we touched them when we’d loom
near to stare into their amber chambers
as once, in a museum, I stared
into a suit of armor through the hole
the sword had bored. But in the shells
not a darkness but a light like that which
I imagine seethes through the keyholes
of treasure chests in sunken ships. No matter
with what care we picked them they always
left a hooked leg or two in the bark
like the crampons of climbers who
have fallen. Sick now in a city far
from where I like to imagine the shells
of the ones we never found are
still clinging to the highest branches,
I wish I could leave my body
blown open upon this bed
for a boy to find and carry
up to a farmhouse cupped gently
in his hand so as not to crush it.
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