i've seen what they make of you
how they render you a multiplicity
they have undone me as well
pulled back my shell and feasted
on my flesh
claimed it was for their survival
and they wonder why I only show my face
every seventeen years
you're lucky if they let you live that long
i could teach you some things, you know
have been playing this game since before
you knew what breath was
this here is prehistoric
why you think we fly?
why you think we roll in packs?
you think these swarms are for the fun of it?
i would tell you that you don't roll deep enough
but every time you swarm they shoot
get you some wings, son
get you some wings
— Clint Smith, Cambridge, Massachusetts
Slice the moon in two symmetrical slivers.
Halve its imperfect circumference
as you would a fruit, your serrated blade
interrupting the wholeness of honeydew
Leave one half behind,
pockmarked, scratched, stained
with your language and gestures,
your loud murmurs of love,
your silent defiance, your blackness
in question, your history a mockery.
Leave that half behind,
spotted with footsteps of generational migrants
carrying a permanent bundle on their hunched backs:
firewood, pine, bread, birth certificate,
judgment, whispers, punishment,
memorized folktales as reminder,
as a mirror, to always remember.
Leave that half behind with its starry halo,
the saccharine glow of sugarcane
suffusing the nights,
the untamed hair of palms,
the whistle of wind through hemmed
skirts of ocean waves crashing,
like migrant bodies, against the foreign shore.
In your new bundle, you've packed
the other half of the moon. Smooth
stone, white pebble, mermaid tooth,
a breast engorged with milk and honey
spilled over these greener grasses.
Tuck this half well under your cloak.
On this new land, among new stars,
your new mission will be to sew
both halves back together
and make the moon whole again.
— Fabienne Sylvia Josaphat, North Miami Beach, Florida
When we die we will drop like station wagons
teenagers drove into the neighborhood pond
and we will swim and swim through cul-de-sacs
of fish and will greet all the cousins we missed
and shake the seven hands of that one magician
friend in jr. high we probably shouldn't have kissed
and we will start to feel the pounding in our ears,
the pressure of a life so swollen we won't know
up from down so we'll wear ourselves out, arms
and legs and the whole turtle of us without a shell
moving desperately toward meaning, where a car
becomes the basement of anything and if we open
our mouths you might notice a bubble, a minnow,
some glowing smallness popping out.
— Philip Schaefer, Missoula, Montana
Everyone gets to have a say—
That's what we like to think
makes us special: Democracy.
The question has to do with fish—
"Cod stock's god-awful thin—
like the Co-Op's got a death wish."
Gink talking up at the Amvets.
says Mo Alley. "Bullshit.
Government's not touching my nets."
Nod of heads. General applause.
Comes the vote.
Gink swears he'll sell his boat:
"You just watch: Cod's a fish that was."
— John Perrault, North Hampton, NH
I despise the way the sun droops when the hail takes over
When the leaves decide to shrivel up and play charades with the cold cement
This scarf is a tollman to lungs that crave the sun
Marigold, they salvage none
I wish for days when the sourgrass would bloom again
I'd gnaw the wrinkles out of my denim dress and
Let the dragonflies crawl into my sun-saturated braid, say
Carry me up off this ice world, into the new season
— Youth Poet, Angelica LaMarca, Pacifica, California
A marble youth strides across the polished floor. Once spotted, he freezes. Sadly, inanimate objects move only in dreams and fables -- but sometimes also, in quick glimpses from the corners of our eyes. The man who magined this room understood this very well -- it is a poem on the theme of immobility. Look at the succession of fluid lines that climb just beyond the marble boy, the nearly heliacal arms of the urns, something or other inchoate that spirals upward still further in the background, the perfect form of motion arrested. Only light can be said to move here, gliding across the floor from morning until dark.
And then it's the moon,
waltzing to the music
of the blowing trees.
— Fred Lowe, Frenchtown, NJ
"Perhaps the world's most famous early human ancestor, the 3.2-million-year-old ape "Lucy" was the first Australopithecus afarensis skeleton ever found." ~National Geographic News
Slutbitch from Babylon get back
Beneath the devil's fossil record.
We have no awe
For your animal marrowboat
Bones—a thimbleful of snake
Oil and smoke. The Cross and its
Army of dollared believers
Will not twice be shaken
By an ancient power of frailty.
We have found our soft lamb.
For Him we want only
Lions hungering for the return.
You soulless ghost dog roaming
For fame, feeding on each
Forgotten faith, we have our coffers
Loaded and ready, we have our
Sure-footed truth. Scripture is
Scripture no matter how it flies.
You are a wraith ape puddled
In poverty, in dust, a discarded
Pepsi can clearing of color
In the sun. And God,
God is a jumbotron
Double-lit in the Word.
God is a ticketed event.
— Elliott Niblock, Missoula, MT
– a city in northern India that flourished c. 3000 BC
I have spent so long over this hollowed grinding stone
that my hair is turning to millet.
In my small house which touches my neighbor's house
which touches her neighbor's house
I have been grinding for five thousand years.
When I began, this town was rich
and I could see down to the harbor where dhows came in
from far coasts. Now the sea is salt white desert.
When the breeze blows between gateless stone pillars, dust
smells like sweat from my loose blouse.
The interlocking reservoirs are empty and there is no water
in the channels. The stone walls
my husband once helped pry into place still stand square
and I am still pregnant.
— Penelope Scambly Schott, Portland, Oregon
There are corn crop circles hiding behind
the backs of everyone in town, bent ovals,
"I don't need all the details," he says.
That's what they always say when a woman
has to explain why she can't bare a child,
tosses a cob in the middle of the symbolic
field. I thought I was ready, able to take
on the slaughtering wolves, rotting seeds,
but the stars make me feel guilty, blue with
burning hypotheticals like if your partner died,
and you married someone new, would you
possibly want a child then? Would I possibly
want strangle the light out of my eye sockets
instead? Maybe I could move to Puerto
Escondido and only wear azul…Possibilities,
they're all manipulators. I want tarot cards to
tell me the message in the carefully-laid stalks,
I want the stalks to guide me into lax black
skies, and when I reach to tie a thread around
a white-hot star, there's suffering for it, too.
Procedures, my blood drop. It's so innocent, such
a pie-perfect dab against the sterile floor, or something
that once was, reaching deep into your stomach
and put a clamp on your cervix. Goya knows
it is eternal: the pressure, the grasp from a heavy
hand that won't let its grip go. It's bottomless,
deep in the center of crop mazes, deep in women
where cold silver wrenches, like a hunched over
boulder beside every abortion clinic, no shelter.
Today, the angry mothers (who didn't have the idea
first) and representatives of wooden crosses aren't
throwing pebbles and condoms at the women
who walk through the doors. The snow is good
for that relief, it keeps all the bears buried below,
although if you crunch gently in the silent woods
after the first few inches have fallen and listen
through the glittering wetness, you can tune in to the low
growling. But if you crouch into the tightest ball,
you can fall like the heavy clumps of flakes rolling off
black branches at the lightest breath, separate into moth mist.
— Kristiane Weeks, Mishawaka, Indiana
must have flown in
through the open
window, crashed into
the mirror, broken
its neck and landed beside
the clock on the buffet.
Still warm and pliant
when I noticed it, it lay
sans a feather out of place
as if arranged by the maid
to counterpoint a vase
of fresh flowers; the maid
so adroit in executing
her Saturday chores
she capped them off
— Larry Thomas, Alpine, Texas