Seven Plagues

For the first plague, we were given a pomegranate tree
we were forbidden from tasting or leaning against.
On October nights of wind, from silk pillows, we watched
the shadows of pomegranates thrash and shudder
through the curtains, a kind of diabolical harvest.

The second plague came in the form of an ice-storm
adorning every pomegranate with a thin cage of ice,
followed by what felt like many months of gray stillness,
followed by a night (the same night I learned how
to comb your hair) of pomegranates snapping
from their branches one by one, shattering
their brilliant reds against the frozen black earth.

The third plague had something to do with clarity.
Though at this point in our lives, the tree was erased
from our backyard, we placed a stethoscope
against the skin of each desired market fruit,
listening for something like the sound of memory

shattering. This was before the fourth plague
brought with it the moment when two lovers blink
in full sunlight with the recognition they are walking
toward different homes with different market bags,
like a familiar pair of impossibly soft hands slicing
open a pomegranate and placing each seed
at the center of a small white plate.

These were the days when I had taken to picturing you
taking off your sweater and diving in a marble fountain
filled with pomegranate seeds spilling from its edges.
By the time you emerged from the fountain’s far side,
the fifth plague had already swept across my mind
so every seed was bursting with blood, your blood
and my blood seeping through the cracks in the marble.

I could barely make out the meaning of the sixth plague,
always coming to me, as it did, as a lullaby sung faintly
from the next room, and the next, as though survival
depended upon the voices of children, following me across
the train-cars, the libraries, the dusty, empty churches
of my travels, sounding to my ears like the lament of a boy
faced in the other direction, toward the glass above the altar,

columns of light and dust moving through his melody…
And now that it’s morning and I am looking out the window
at the first light, straining to remember that same fragment
of song, the seventh plague flickers briefly in my vision:
a pomegranate tree resurrecting from the emptiness,
a floating sea of brilliant reds blinding me for a bit
before receding to the earth like water…

But how can this vision be true?
How, at the midmost point of summer, when
the pomegranates have long been withered,
when I am no longer a child pretending
to be made and unmade as clay by your hand?

About the Author

John Bosworth is a senior at the University of Texas in Austin. He is the recipient of the 2018 Most Promising Young Poet Award from the Academy of American Poets, the 2018 Roy Crane Award for Outstanding Achievement in the Arts, and a two-time winner of the James F. Parker writing contests. He works as a poetry intern at Bat City Review.