On the conservation of mass

by Steve Xerri

What in the world
were they before,
those specks of pollen
smoking in the sunlight,
shaken from lamb’s-tail
catkins, seeking a home
elsewhere and otherwise,
as did his tipped ash
wispy as silverpoint,
rising and departing
on the air?

What becomes now
of the boy he was,
held all those years
in the grainy lightprints
of his memory, splashing
in the water meadow
at the fringe of the village,
now under houses,
where one time he
dropped his ration book
in a muddy ditch?