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by Jessica Jacobs

NELLE 5 | 2022

And God said to Cain, “Cursed are you from the ground that opened its mouth to take you brother’s blood from your hand.”
          —Genesis 4:10-11

Dear wandering dust, dear vagrant clay,
dear humans made of me,

how quickly you’ve forgotten.
I am not just a backdrop
for your horrors—

read your holy book: Stars and trees
join in battle, hills mourn, valleys
and waves tremble and writhe

at the approach of God. And how
many of your slaughtered
have I choked down? I’ve borne

witness to the forests
you’ve razed, evicting owls, salamanders,
wolves; building your houses

in hills just waiting
to be wildfires. I am trying
to warn you. For every season,

I send wrong weather, drain
reefs of their color, let whole species
go extinct. Yet you go on.

Enough. Too much. You are no longer
the protagonist of this story.
So try this other one:

Seeing something he wanted
across the road, a boy dropped
his mother’s hand

and ran into the onslaught
of traffic. She screamed
his name, rooted there, unable

to look away. At the clamor
and rush, at a mirror hissing
so close past his ear it raised

the small hairs inside it,
he ran back to her. Weeping,
she slapped him hard; weeping,

he pressed the heat of his cheek
to her chest. That slap? Pain
now to stave off worse later.

I am so tired
of being afraid
for you.

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