Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsFall 2022  Vol. 21  No. 2
an online journal of literature and the arts
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Swamp Lullaby in a Dry Year

The insects die first, especially the ants.
I find one crumpled in the sink, its black beads
still glossy but tipped from their links,
the busy little wicks of its legs curled
and dry, June’s industrious marauders
who gave way to July’s flies, autumn’s
moths and wasps. Ordinary deaths
that the seasons’ wheels leave in corners,
not portent, like the orange light
falling here and there through clouds
of smoke lying like mists at the rims
of our vision. All those dusty apocalypses
we watched for fun on screens now play
on the freeway all the way to the border:
smolder and reek bringing the boreal north
down. I drove at it with others, speedy
on desperation and a little hope
that there was still an other side. Headlights
poked the edges, and masked drivers
wiped burning eyes. Those faux futures
were not cautionary, but thrill of what might,
but would never get us. Cute heroes
in leotards and rubber doublets
adjusted their breathing tubes
and dropped their moist lashes
as elders fell, and the music slated
to win all the awards swelled and poured
from speakers flanking dusty lengths
of old velvet as the lights came up. Now,
tucked on an old dune above my small
swamp, I half believe, half dream the living
layers of sedge open their clean pockets of root
to suck the vaporized forests back
into lush primordial soup, so the lucky
stars can sneak back into the night sky.  

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