On the Half-life of Facts

My inherited skin is thin,
more purple than white, rough
paper on which some facts
spread tender, like pigment
bleeding in a brushstroke of water.
A useless plea bruises up
after news, from time to time:
No more martyrs. No more
innocents. New hates, old hates—
both fill us quickly,
like blood in a cut. Under one
banner they justify our errors while
from the brains’ damp folds
continents bloom unceasingly
with the contents of events:
those who fled, those who
flee now. Once, in Krakow,
half a century after the last
great war, I watched as
hundreds of grackles shook
an old plane tree in the Planty
with terrible, blunt notes
until instinct rattled them and,
tremulous, they rose en masse
above us. No history seized
like a twisted kite string
in the crux of their hearts.
I loved the summer leaves
that replaced medieval walls
no less in knife-edge green,
no less the white water birds
circumnavigating trash
on the Vistula. Is it wrong
to wrest beauty from devastation?
Some facts have half-lives
so long they seem to leave
permanent bleeding beneath
the skin of cities. Smokestacks
and barracks; ashes descending
like birds on a fence of
densely planted trees; and,
behind an ordinary neighborhood
fence, the abandoned graveyard
where DNA ends, headstone
text obscured by the lush, green
unplucked plants rooted among
the dead roots of a race.