The Land at Night

by | Aug 6, 2019 | Issue Ten, Poetry

I contemplate the land at night and relive
my ancestors’ doubts,
their morals and discrepancies, 
how they built unnecessary fires 
and slaughtered to be warm and satisfied.

Three crickets sing on the hood
of my father’s Chevrolet; three purple finches
nest in my neighbor’s pin-oak. 
We came to be here—all of us—
through accidents and intrigue,

a sly pioneer with a rifle, a hungry reptile
making do in dawn’s slight heat. 
I’m only sixteen, yet I surmise 
the largeness that surrounds me,
surrounded them all—them who presented
themselves as gods, them who tried fire
but couldn’t taste it. 

My grandmother prayed to the stars
above Park Crossing, hers to Jesus 
Who baffled the servants with wine
and words. I listen to the rain at night,
ours and theirs, or no one’s at all.

My uncle raised pigeons; my mother’s aunt
lit candles in the Byzantine church 
that gave sweet smoke. I, who was born
on a Friday, moaned the night 
Ritchie Valens died: our preserve

against history, against the obstinate-
always-forward. I hummed and swayed
and imagined his face. I danced in my room
while my sister was asleep and tossed
myself against the drape, the window,
the inside and the outside. A squirrel
leapt, frightened of me.

We make music to be faithful 
to a thing we cannot see. We cut earthworms
for bait because our ancestors did,
because we know the taste of blood
lingers long on the tongue. 

Exhausted, I imagine falling off 
the land of earth toward blue-black space,
drifting backward through calendars
and frenzies of being. I imagine—
most of all—not being me.

Read more Issue Ten | Poetry

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