It is time. We feel the pull of summer along our spines
as we head into hibernation. Bed is short respite for our leaden limbs,
our singed hair. The air aches with the wait of it, where the embers
click and sing like crickets. Snippets of sound from the underground.
"This," someone says, wide-eyed with awe, "is what the insides
of the earth look like" - the world beneath, struck through with
dragons' teeth, pocked with open sores. The slit smile of the crater
in a slack jaw. Our scarred skies are littered with lights, many
mechanical suns spun into the ceiling, glinting like electric sequins.
And in the middle of it all, where our tracks meet, lies Vesta,
incomplete. The heat seeps from her as she speaks neat,
untranslatable lines of words, tapped out as if on a bell.
She's a shell and she knows it, tied heart to hearth. She hears
the earth and extracts, repeats an exact echo. Sometimes
she's nearly crushed by the rush of words, spilling into the air
like prayers, but by now we know how to piece her back together.
The boughs of hair that map the family tree; the jigsaw of bones;
the singed rings round her coalstone eyes. The slack jaw.
Three hundred and ninety one summers we have huddled down here.
We tell Vesta to rest, but she won't hear of it, ears fixed to the floor.
"You're sick," we say, feeling for her burning temples, the flames
of fever staking their claim, "and we won't stand for it anymore!"
She's tired, can hardly lift her head, but she cries like a child
when she hears what we've said. "After everything I did for you
sang songs stamped in amber, rocked you to sleep-" She quakes and weeps.
After each rebuild, breaking is easy. We simply take her apart; pluck out
her heart. She lies Promethean, slack. Her split sides smiling wide.
We turn our backs, and only then we learn
that we have nothing left to burn.