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Matthew Wimberley

Photograph, Genius in Horse Shed Discovers Five-to-Seven Day TB Test

Whatever hour it was the light broke
over the land felt like a lifetime—
the cold burning off through the pitch pine, the velvet
made of ice crystals on their branches and the rocks
in the little stream flared below the waters like a vast
bed of coals you prepare to walk across—the unexpected
sting of frostbite, its gentleness
making purple crescents of the skin. Pretend
it is another end of the world—allow
for a moment your breath to fog the glass
and reach out, making slash marks with your nails
the way a prisoner might, waiting for the unthinkable
casual sentence to be made final. The boards
of this horse shed are warped and blue as cigarette
smoke, and while the others quarantine, the blood sharpens
under the microscope, tubercular, its spark-shower
of cells there clear as anything. If you hold your mouth
just so, you can breathe in cobwebs of air and exhale
the strange animal sounds we make as time sweeps on
making a halfhearted promise, second after impossible second.

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