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Sierra Nelson

 

Panic

 
go pound-heart
:
the dead calm
:
room walls
:
resound
 
from outside
:
your own
:
gasp-child
:
crying
 
cough
:
if you could cough
:
out
:
would
 
come flying
:
a tiny
:
brass
:
key.
 
.
 
can't keep
:
chest
:
closed
:
every cup
 
in
:
cupboard
:
blows itself
:
back.
 
.
 
limp claws
:
wood table
:
fingers
:
uprising
 
as tides will
:
scrape a body
:
against
:
a pier.
 
.
 
pinned
:
roil &
:
fast
:
hollow
 
twenty-
:
five
:
seething
:
 
years
:
nothing
:
:
nothing
 
:
dead
:
open
:
 
.
 
:
calm.

 

Quartet

I.          Bee in a Corner

She’s not going anywhere.

What backs this bee up
into the brain hum, ivy twine,
trouble? Wings move
so fast they look like blur
above her hexagonal sheen –
and still she’s not budging.
       Reconsiders the old dance
she’d seen, the tail-wagging
Boogie-Woogie that once seemed
like 300 meters to the nearest
nectar dream
– now far-off,
at best chancy, spider-
fraught, mean.

 

II.          Birdnest II

They say, “No one’s ever
seen a crow’s nest.”

So one day, three crows
made like lovebirds
and decided to settle down.

They found a nest.
Let’s live here, said one.
They found some eggs.
I’ll watch these, said the other.
And the last one, I’ll hold onto the edge
and hang upside down for awhile
.

In this way, they were happy
for a season.

 

III.          Dinnerplate Landscape

Speak the Mold:
Now we must traverse
what has been made clean
and worse.

Where are
the grains of sugar?
Where are the pools of milk?

Once we built islands
of tufted growth and slime
on the cupped lakes of our youth,
in the placid sink of time.

To what do we owe
the gods’ displeasure?
How could we praise you,
O rinsed world?

 

IV.          Beetle with Nettles

She has made a prickly choice
But continues to choose it.
              Hard and shiny.
              Hard and shiny.

She sings under her breath
And makes the most of it.
              Hard and shiny.
              All day long.

Six steps per thought
And antennae aflutter.
              Hard and shiny
              Hard and shiny.

Beetle with nettles, beetle with nettles,
Beetle with nettles, all night long.

 

The Future is Befalling You

I.

You think it’s the ocean
when you put that
seashell up to your ear.

But really it’s the echo
of the world having crawled
out of its shell –
calling to you
as you stand there
holding the shell
up to your ear.

 

II.

By day it will be 1200 beats per minute
as you hover, ruby-throated,
above your nectar.

But by night, it’s all torpor –
your temperature drops
as you tuck your tiny head
down to your narrow chest.

 

III.

Sometimes you’re the sly and needy,
and sometimes you’re the fat merchant.

The coins spill from the scales
and you’re the hidden weight.
And it’s only fair –

Or else who would pay the mistress?
Who would pay the cook?

 

IV.

When the earthquake comes
you will pound the earth
and charge your heavy body
from one end of the fenced yard
to the other.

Although you are thick skinned,
this will grieve you.
Still you must continue
to play the silent horn
upon your snout.

 

V.

You are a favorite drink among
the common people.
Your apples have been stewed
to a pulp in the ale,
and you are passed around,
passed around,
in a drunken cup.

Meanwhile, the sheep have found a break
in the fence and follow each other out
to the wider world.
A small lamb strays
into the woods, bleats,
and its tiny bell rings
once in the listening darkness.

 

VI.

The harrumphing angel
with a headache looks
down. “Crummy,”
he mutters.

 

VII.

You feel you are a brickbat.
You come back and back
to the wall of yourself
and try to look over.

Brickbat.

 

VIII.

Your efforts will be a bolt of red
Tied into a knot.

Someone you meet.
Change your home.
Stay up late with work.

In your dreams, you unravel,
and sometimes you bind.

But when you wake up,
your two red fists
are yours.

 

IX.

“Where are we going?” you ask,
but there’s still no answer.

You do your best to keep up
with the man with the lantern.

Beneath the peeling bark
on his staff you see something
smooth and golden.

“Hey, I’ve got a cloak too!”
you think, and
almost lose him.

 

X.

You turn and find yourself face to face
with an Indian leopard. You grab
a stone but in your haste, your foot
hits a loose rock and you find yourself
falling backwards.

Hypnotized subjects are often forced
to perform incredible feats.

 

 

 

Sierra Nelson writes, teaches, and works as a poetry-scientist as part of the Vis-ŗ-Vis Society in Seattle, WA. Nelsonís chapbook with artist Loren Erdrich I Take Back the Sponge Cake: A Lyrical Choose-Your-Own-Adventure recently won NYUís Collaboration Award. She hearts typewriters, Icelandic sagas, and cephalopods. Contact author.

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