America is a belt rusting still on the rack

by | Aimee Oct Day 2

Scorch became a town beset by famine arranged in tumbled bouquets. Children learned to inhabit dead sunflowers, heads drooping in deference to eternity before learning any alphabet – sad army of no emperor, not marching. Seeds set to drop before spring’s yellowing crown, a lion’s mane of tectonic yawp before the shuttered A&P. Lights arcing toward blink and never making it.

Once, commerce wound the creaking clocks mechanical as a rusting tractor. Elements unwitting, brittling jute quarrelsome as ravens scrabbling on an unmarked grave.

One after another we set about our dying, a wingbeat percussion plosive hushed by a husk of away. Buried too deep to find. Stars claw themselves inside horizon, a monument to how the land is built on our dead, matter continuing to forgive itself in disintegration.

Once, a woman placed a square of embroidery wet with sadness into an apron pocket. The telegram said full stop dead. A husband to a wife when more children meant maybe one would survive.

Exposed as we all are now, we gnaw at the desert with splintered nubs trying to spell LOVE in hopes a plane might crest the hill though it’s been so long. Because a book once named it rescue, and one of us can still read aloud.

8 Comments

  1. Trent

    Sara,

    probably not an accident, but this has some dystopian energy.

    For some reason, I like “The telegram said full stop dead.” best here –

    It sounds as if it could be a coded signal, between two or more characters!

  2. Jennifer Fliss

    I love this “Children learned to inhabit dead sunflowers” so much. This entire piece is filled with great word choices and awesome imagery. I could almost envision this as the beginning of a whole series of stories based on this town.

  3. Aimee Parkison

    Sara,

    Once again, your poetic lines are fierce! The apocalyptic imagery is haunting, so stunning. When I read this with your previous piece, I sense a series or a collection growing. You do this fascinating thing where you start off with vivid descriptions of the landscape falling apart.

    You have such a talent for world building and showing the apocalyptic and then turning it from the larger landscape to the individual, almost like a cinematic moment where a camera moves from far away to a close up on single character experiencing the world as in the following:

    “Once, a woman placed a square of embroidery wet with sadness into an apron pocket. The telegram said full stop dead. A husband to a wife when more children meant maybe one would survive.”

    That passage touches a nerve because it humanizes the world of your fiction! Your writing moves from vivid landscape to impactful characterization of the people in the world you create.

    My instinct would be to play up that power even more by going deeper into the close focus of the humanizing moment. Show us the women a bit more. She holds the power to reveal the deeper psychology. Add a few more lines or even a paragraph or so about her and her plight.
    I really like the way you use form, building the world through vivid poetry and then zooming in on a character in that world to show the impact on the individual. That works so well!

    Here are some journals you might consider sending these pieces to: Black Warrior Review, Ecotone, Image, Western Humanities Review, and/or Mooncity Review.

    Thank you so much for sharing your vividly cinematic writing with me! I so enjoyed being haunted by your work!

    Xoxo, Aimee

  4. Meg Tuite

    Hi Sara,
    So much to admire and LOVE in this! “famine arranged in tumbled bouquets.” “heads drooping in deference to eternity before learning any alphabet” “commerce wound the creaking clocks mechanical as a rusting tractor.” and on and on…. layering paint over the macro moving into the micro. Yes to moving from the universal to community to the individual. Absolutely brilliant and gorgeously visceral! Send it out! LOVE!

  5. AJ Miller

    Sara, ohhhh! Maybe I shouldn’t start at the end but that ending! I love it. The piece is a beautiful lesson on how poetic and fierce language can be. There’s mood, rhythm, beauty, and sadness all wrapped up in one here. I love how the story unfolds, how hope wants to persevere even though the horror of their reality is quite clear, to them and the reader. So many great lines. I especially love the one about the children inhabiting dead sunflowers. Such a striking image. Well done!

  6. Kathryn Kulpa

    Sometimes flash slips through the borders into prose poem territory, and this piece feels like one of those. I wasn’t always entirely sure what was going on in the narrative, but the images and wordplay were so lush I was willing to just lose myself in the strangeness. It reads like the literary equivalent of a surrealist painting. I love “children learned to inhabit dead sunflowers” and “a lion’s mane of tectonic yawp before the shuttered A&P” and the full stop telegram and the land built on our dead and trying to spell LOVE for the rescue plane that may or may not come. A world where everything is winding down, falling in on itself. It’s just so beautifully creepy.

  7. Gloria Garfunkel

    Sara:

    I feel such immense sadness emanating from this piece, the vivid, poetic dying of a town, it’s places and people, the hopelessness in the inscription of LOVE in the desert where no plane is even likely to see it. For me, sadder than it is horrifying.

    Gloria

  8. David O'Connor

    Sarah, this is so good, a real elegy for the rust belt, I felt the ghost of Whitman and Ginsberg (here: a lion’s mane of tectonic yawp before the shuttered A&P). In fact, I felt a lot, really touched me. If revising, not that you need to, I’d look at the first word in each stanza, especially once, one, once–I think there is a pattern or some structural thing emerging that might add another layer, not that it needs it–so. fucking. good!

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