The nights must’ve been the worst,
trapped in that half-crumpled house
no longer a home
with the decomposing bodies
no longer their mothers
& the explosions & tracer fire lighting up
the sky no longer a place
for flights of imagination.
By the time the Red Crescent people
got to them, their child eyes
had been emptied & replaced
by the hungry unblinking heart-
shaped faces of praying mantises
& the rats had made off with
their voices, leaving little more
than the crumbs of a squeak.
Also in the news: scientists have learned
that stones in a desert, toppling
forward bit by bit as the sand
is blown out from in front of them,
move in recognizable formations into
the prevailing wind, the sand
forming protective windrows against
the close approach of other stones,
& this holds true even
on distant planets where
the air is so lacking, you’d see
the blackness of space at high noon.


Links: Red Cross finds starving children with 12 corpses in Gaza ‘house of horrors’; How Martian Winds make Rocks Walk


Amir Farshad Ebrahimi's photo of two men burying a Palestinian child
Photo by Amir Farshad Ebrahimi (reproduced under a CC Attribution-Share Alike “copyleft” licence)

Dear Todd,

I hope your mother’s heart has settled
& ceased its flutter. I’d like to add
some wish about hearts in general
in this time of rage & sadness,
but I’m not sure poets should perpetuate
such outdated metaphysics about
a thing that turns out to be little more
than an organ, a nest of fat roots
that can be transplanted like a tree
from one body to another, even
across species lines.
I am still agog at this, recalling
my Great Aunt Thera’s pride & wonder
as a former farm girl that she owed
her last years of life to a sacrificial pig.

If there’s a soul, then, I wonder
where it might sit?
I picture a yellow canary flitting
anxiously from perch to perch as
its cage travels deeper into the mine.
I picture the trees our primate bodies
evolved to navigate, their ladders,
their heartwood neither alive
nor clearly dead. I remember
the blossoming branches of a wild
sweet cherry tree one spring,
after an ice storm had toppled it
& a chainsaw had severed the trunk
from the tangle of roots and soil.
Even decapitated, it bloomed with abandon,
it bloomed as if there were no tomorrow:
clouds of white against the brown woods.
The wasps & bees didn’t seem
to know the difference, & surely
their grubs grew just as fat
on that deathless honey.

I have no answers, & am afraid
for those who do. The Aztecs
suffered no shortage of poets, all
wringing their hands at the sweet
ephemerality of life. Their stock
metaphor for a heart was a blossom,
& the chest cavity of a human being
was the sacred ground over which
they fought their wars.
What have we learned?
The Holy Land itself has been vivisected
into slivers that can’t survive in isolation.
Broken sewers on one side of the wall
mean poisoned wells on the other,
& blood spilled in one place
travels who knows how far
through the imperilled veins
of a single subterranean heart.


Is it wrong to make a song
of bombardment:
stucco walls turning crimson
through the alchemy of war,
rich & poor apartments ground together,
schools collapsed on collateral schoolchildren,
mosques hollowed into husks,
houses crushed in snuff films,
the missiles’ jizz,
a blizzard of shards small enough
for a gizzard, some red-eyed
rock dove’s crop?
Yes. Violence has
too strong a valence.
Unsing it,
goddamn it.


Snuff films: see here.

Prompted by this selection of words at ReadWritePoem.