Three Poems by Phil Spotswood

Poetry: Phil Spotswood

growing up on TR84

You are shown a series of pictures by the visiting Earthmen: a blank crucifix, a doll with a missing eye, and a sunset bleeding in the ocean. The crucifix and the doll mean nothing to you, for they are products of a life sprung from the bones of an elephant graveyard. If you knew to cry, you would share your water with the boiling ocean.

When asked if you are loved, tell them you cannot comprehend, it is on a wavelength your two suns have never radiated. When shown a photo of a bridal gown, a golden ring, show them the underside of a red desert rock, the symbiosis merging.

Hunger, to you, is a distance—measurable in cubic inches or the space between parted lips. You are sated by broken parabolic swings: you, yesterday, biting into an apple that had fallen years ago. Shared amongst your sisters, you tell the Earthmen, there is no need for want, the desire to control.

They will return, centuries from now, with more men—deep boot prints on crimson sand and silver needles. They will seek to instill gravity, to hold things down, the apple from falling upwards. Do not lose hold of your roots, gushing from the wound created when this planet’s moon ripped itself from the surface. Do not believe them when they tell you the tide rises at night, only.

Remember the sound of static.

I knew your face in a pillar of salt

After the wake I thought I saw a Chopin piece on the piano, the brown and tattered sheets, but perhaps it was your moth-eaten dream journal lying delicate above the white keys, a lilting dance across lunar surface in paper-crepe shoes.

Once, I watched your feet hit the pavement and heard your bones creak, a low b-major followed by my staccato heartbeat. Now, running down 3rd next to you, the ghost at least, I remember the moth-dream scattered as water droplets in rising steam:

You lean in and tell me that what is important is what dissipates, as your words slip down my throat and catch fire in my lungs, causing my next breath to rise as smoke and join you, somewhere.

Tell me something real. What happens in between the chords, the negative space between white and black, the in-between of hurricane sheets and how legs are legs are intertwined.

If the moth-dream lighted on anything it was the ganglia nerve that sent a shiver up into the air as green light, as a beacon beckoning. An f-minor chord sends a flat pulse across the broken piano on the beach, slips from the keys and over the water, to smooth out the waves so that we may have a place to rest, away from shifting sands, from the green light.

I look into the dream-sky and see your words written in dust by the shuffling of paper wings: When the virus broke my veins, I cried for the blood lost, over the years. Carry my body high through the streets and stamp your feet as in Gomorrah. Demand answers. Demand to know where the wind has taken our brothers, scream into the ground and dig through, for the bones rejected.

Awaking I will fall on my knees and lick the earth, taste the salt, the curse, our myth. Awake I will speak with the sun, coax its energy to release the moth-dust, the many forms of you.

sunday burnings

We sat on the high balcony in the morning and listened
as the wicker bench pressed deep lines in our skin, the soft
underside of our thighs.
The whine of the weed-eater next door urged the sun
upwards over the roof, into our eyes and through
the dewed grass—
to dispel stagnation. You said yes, this is so, for
it is Sunday and St. Joseph’s bells are clanging in uneven parabolas,
to remind us and the dew of unrest.

There is compost rotting on the cement below, its sewer-stink fuming
because the ground has refused it. I imagine garbage prayers rising
on the wings of flies, magnified in their hundred eyes and
forcing the filth to know itself, why it was rejected and where it is going.

I heard yes,
heard watch
for what happens
when the skies accept prayers,
full-rotting and cloud-forming, only
to release them back to us,
the dried lips of the turned believers.

As our cells break down and mingle with
the wood of the seat, we talk about
nitrogen, the refuse of the body
that strengthens roots.

I wonder aloud the wood of the Cross,
which root system it fed and why
it is bitter.

We listen to the silence that lurks
between the swing of the bells, listen
for our names to sound out and lift,
full-knowing that we are not meant for such.

It is bitter, you confess,
the wood of the Cross.

Phil Spotswood was born in Mobile, Alabama, into a family of nine children. Currently he is an MFA student at Louisiana State University. He is addicted to running in the dark.


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