He Came to Dwell
by Sam Ambler
He came to live with us when the Russians bombarded his house.
They called it a threatening military installation, but it was just him
(a baker), his wife (a teacher), their two children (a girl and a boy,
twelve and fifteen), getting ready for school. Only he survived.
He sits at our living room window, staring out into the street, alone.
Sam Ambler’s writing has been published in Apricity Magazine, Christopher Street, City Lights Review Number 2, Euphony Journal, Evening Street Review, Glint Literary Journal, Headway Quarterly, Hearth & Coffin, The James White Review, Nixes Mate Review, The Phoenix, Plainsongs Poetry Magazine, Red
Wheelbarrow, and Visitant, among others. Most recently, he was featured in the anthology VOICES OF
THE GRIEVING HEART. He won the San Francisco Bay Guardian’s 6th Annual Poetry Contest. A
graduate of Stanford University, he sang with the Temescal Gay Men’s Chorus in Berkeley and the
Pacific Chamber Singers in San Francisco. He has worked in nonprofit theater at Berkeley Rep, Geffen
Playhouse, Actors’ Equity, and The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. Now retired, he
lives in California with his husband, visual artist Edward L. Rubin.
Carry my bones to the hills,
where I can rest my eyes
on the island of Santa Catalina.
Carry my bones to the topmost peak
of what was once a seafloor bed.
Carry my bones back
to the burnt-ochre deserts
of the inland empire.
Carry my bones home.
I’ve been away, a lifetime gone.
Push together a pyre of oak and scrub
fueled by dung and peat.
Build it in the gorge
where, in the middle of the day,
the horned owl screeches,
where rattlers twist
and chase off king snakes.
Kindle the spark of the bonfire
with verdigris lichen.
Sprinkle its mischievous flames
with white berries of winter mistletoe.
Listen to it crackle (such glee
in its hoary voice, such abandon)
as it sings my name
and chars my bones.
Let the ground mist of dawn
cool the sparkling embers.
Grind them into dust
as fine as talcum.
Daub them on your face
and rub your cheeks.
There is more power
in the sand of my bones
than in all the tiger balm in China.