Dara Elerath
Via Dolorosa

Somewhere in America, scientists

have invented a method for measuring pain,

running their fingers over the bleach-

burned hands of abandoned housewives. 

The standard unit of sorrow

they call a dol, as in dolorous, or Dolores,

the name of a young girl skilled

at spilling tears down the buttons

of her cornflower-blue cardigan.

The new machines make us unable

to feign heartache or holy prostration,

but arguments are settled

by those whose dolorimeters run cold.

Some wear the devices against their arms

as a kind of complaint—

this has changed the way we breathe

at 4 a.m. into sweat-soaked pillows

beside our breathless bedfellows.

In some cases sufferers have been sainted,

known for their ability to hold

their own torn organs in their hands

like blood oranges, the way they tie

barbed wire around their wrists

like penitents hauling wooden crosses

through windless deserts.

It is said if you embrace these men

you will be seared by sudden knowledge,

you will carry the blood clot

of a red poppy in your coat pocket;

when you kiss your lover,

the one leaving a trail of torn letters

in the wake of her battered luggage,

you will turn and say thank you,

thank you, and shake

bitter tears from the silver censers

found everywhere these days,

in this strange, fabled country

we can’t seem to leave.




Found In Volume 46, No. 03
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Dara Elerath
About the Author


Dara Elerath holds an MFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts and was a winner in the Muse Times Two College Poetry Contest (2015). She lives in Albuquerque.