Underneath

By Patricia Smith

For Dana Bradley, survivor of the Oklahoma City bombing

On the day the bricks threatened to stop breathing,
I was unearthed, cracked and spilling, my legs
stretched sparkless. Skin and dust stiffened my
wailing halo of hair, my gut whimpered through
rips and brown-soaked cotton. For days I nibbled
on pockets of air, sipped spit conjured from memory,
willed my waning pulse away from the pit and its
rampaging prickle of light. I was everyone’s thin
thread, the wheeze they almost didn’t hear. You
saw the picture? My howl of red-rimmed staring?
My eyes gone dead at the instance of boom?
I was speedy celebrity blown wide and blue.
You saw the second after the calvary of weeping
white boys sawed my legs away, the second after
they fed my legs and feet to the earth’s open scar
and arced over my half-body to shield me from
the cackling sun and clicking shutters. So.
I was your whole morning this morning. Another
woman torn in half. Noble men guarding her ruin.

Patricia Smith

Patricia Smith is the author of Incendiary Art, winner of the Kingsley Tufts Award, the LA Times Book Prize, the NAACP Image Award and finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; Shoulda Been Jimi Savannah, winner of the Lenore Marshall Prize from the Academy of American Poets; and Blood Dazzler, a National Book Award finalist. She is a visiting professor at Princeton University, and a distinguished professor for the City University of New York.