Abridgement 

 

by Alix Anne Shaw

 

 

Beneath the ground, the garden dies

back along itself, back toward itself.

The lichen is a handprint

 

hunkered down to stone.

After long use, language

gives out, like anything else:

 

words grow loose in their sockets,

break when touched. Meaning burns

in the lodestone, the toad’s alchemical eye;

 

written as a glyph I’ll never read.

It hurts me, as the frost 

scorches the silver stem

 

of the milkweed, and the garden is unmade.

Now the days themselves recede

from dawn to dawn. The heart’s slow motor

 

stills. Even the stones retract their moss.

Everything that lives

lives in retreat.