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Five Poems, by Terese Svoboda

 

Ark-Shaped Plus Neck

She walks the shore, kempt and clipped,
just-so wings, a lion’s glance across

the blue savannah, no sand gritting her double lids,
her etcetera’s a dance of known nouns vs.

the lapping of perception: an oceanimity.
Really, the bird’s Sphinx mysterious,

female by stripes, fallen from a cloud the size
of a house now laddering the sky

with V’s in proportion,
dangling legs probably painful from the walk.

I want wings, rings the rest of creation, let us
ream gravity. Here at my feet,

six more reckon the water with their stares,
absorbing the adjectives of another exit.

Safe on land, on sea and air,
fewer survive each year.

 

Oasis

52 dead discovered by authorities
—BBC, 26 June 2017

Agadez is the hiss in the Sahara
where hundreds
cellphone
from the town fountain
begging
relatives or a Big Man or a soccer friend

for money to migrate. Or just to leave

before slavery cups its glass over them

You also get glimpses of people inside cupboards
or trunks if you can pry them
open.

The fountain is dry

Sometimes
what money they beg they spend

to hire a ride on a truck
that stops
in the middle
of all that sand
where they must use their phones
again

Those without power
those with mothers whose
houses have already been sold
are left behind

They scream
at the truck
they beseech planes
crossing the relentless blue, they walk
while they walk
ahead

or touch their foreheads
to the sand

which lifts up wave on wave
while you watch the bottle of water to your lips
an ellipsis

 

A Beautiful Boy

who knew nothing of dying:

the choo-choo ran out of steam, the meat
on his plate never bit back.

The to be verb

gone awry, leaving beauty
behind as irrelevant now

as the glory of becoming.

He was.
It is unreasonable to expect otherwise.

It’s unreasonable to expect the beholder

to love any less. Out of you
a new baby squalls in distress.

You chorus.

 

At the edge of the mind

spiders into the wrought
as if steel and tight, quick,
the tiniest said thing
carries
itself to the steaming head.

No snapping against it, the dawn
unwelcome even if slept,
the sun of it ungentle,
the broken egg sliding

into all the parts, the parts
unknown
and untoward
yet always always
forgotten
or the wood of the wrought
would tap worse.

 

Lacemaker and Scarecrow

Rowed in the sun,
scoliosis-bowed girls bob
at their lace like spiders
while singing in chorus
to keep their place,

songs about their short lives,
angry at their fathers
for selling them into this terrible toil,
their mothers for bearing too many,
and of pricking babies dead.

One girl, forced to sip soup
so as to still move her fingers,
could still see, and in the field beyond
stood a boy, black-coated, arms wild
and hooting at birds

eating the oats at his feet.
Mostly the boy watched the girls,
and at the end of their songs,
he ran at the crows,
black specks from where she sat.

After the gleaners, he was gone.
Had the farmer caught him
napping and clapped his ears hard,
too hard? Surely he would need
a guard for the seed in the spring.

She sang the loudest as if
her singing would keep her
from blindness, and bring him back.
Once the mistress fell sick
and left them at their lace,

and she rose from the bench,
silencing all of them,
and made her way into the field
to where the black coat
flapped. The farmer

had ripped the cloth from
the corpse to fool the birds.
She felt the branch that
held the black stiff, she touched
where the fingers would be.

 

 

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