Phil Spotswood: “The First Engineer,” a poem

Poetry: Phil Spotswood

The First Engineer

learned momentum from falling birds, how
they hit the water faster than the fish could die
learned that trees heaped together could
form a sort of barrier, to keep things in or out—how,
also, the laying down of two bodies could
create new space and angles

the first engineer came to understand
the language of snake-speak in grass, how
indentations point towards meaning and
where we are going
perimetered branches down
painted them with blood-red
berries to warn us
away from this knowledge

could not hear the teachings of tornado
over all the noise
but witnessed death rearranged
in its wake
caught traces of wind-power across
broken shells
and listened
for the first time
to motion running through
his veins

asked coal about immortality
while it burned itself alive

Phil Spotswood is a poet from Alabama, and an incoming PhD English Studies student at Illinois State University. His most recent work can be found in baest, The Wanderer, and Five:2:One. He is the recipient of the 2018 Robert Penn Warren MFA Poetry Thesis Award judged by Tonya Foster, and the 2017 William Jay Smith MFA Poetry Award judged by Daniel Borzutzky. He is the poetry editor for Cartridge Lit, and tweets @biometrash.


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