Vox Populi: A Public Sphere for Politics and Poetry
After 25 years, the land around their house
was littered with graves.
Cats, dogs, stillborn puppies, fading kittens
whose nostrils she had covered at the last.
The great show dog who one day
in anxiety had chewed up
a fiberglass fence, that pierced
his intestinal tract– who had then died
post-operatively, was brought home,
buried in the loam in the creek bank
to feed the crab apple tree.
The creek had born off dead goat kids,
whose mothers had bleated after them;
In once instance, the woman
had skinned a stillborn kid
to make a suit of its hide,
and tied it with baling twine
around a lamb she had rescued
from the feedlot on the county line.
But she had mistakenly salted the hide
so that it rolled up around the lamb’s neck.
The mourning pygmy goat Queen Noor,
udder bursting with milk,.
wanted nothing to do
with the oddly attired lamb.
She had turned away, watching the road
night and day,
where the renderer’s truck had veered
But the lamb had stopped the infernal crying
of the bereft. The doe’s milk dried up
and the woman bottle fed the lamb,
sometimes carrying it, diapered
and in a baby harness, against her breast.
And the house itself, once so new
and filled with light, had settled back
against itself, assailed by the years
unto chinks and creaking, held up merely
by the manifold arms of the poplars
marching in from the creek
like the garrisons of a sea invasion.
In the great nightly northern winds
sweeping down from Wyoming,
the trees’ pliant young branches
rubbed against the wall
where the woman lay,
unable to sleep.
her eyes filled with sand.
One day the nurse practitioner
who managed the woman’s pain
from a fall from the last in her dynasty
of swan-lovely Arabian mares,
toiled up to the house, burdened
by a pack heavy with stethoscope,
blood pressure cuff,
She came in, startling the woman
with how thin she was,
how her clothes hung upon her bones,
how her ears stuck out from her head,
the skin pulled tight and translucent.
My family thinks I’m dying she said.
She went back out to the car
and came in with something
that caught the light
as she walked through the hallway.
She set it on the table.
This was my grandfather’s
A music box, the woman asked?
No, the other said.
On a polished oak base,
a bone china pair of hummingbirds
whirred over delicate day lilies
whose pistils had arisen
from the secrecy within them–
so that there was a perfect alignment
of the tiny sharp bills
and the sex organs of the flowers.
For you. From China, and made
by hand, she said..
After the nurse had gone,
the woman looked out at the garden
where she had for years cultivated
vegetables and flowers.
She saw the bees come in
in hunting formation, seeking
a tangle of wild morning glories
or marigolds to plunder for pollen,
the great zebra bees,
whose hive was in the pile
of rotten posts at the northern
boundary of the land.
The woman sat with her husband.
This place is littered with graves.
If we stay we will die.
I love you and I cannot leave
to save myself.
I cannot leave you here,
so I too am dying with you.
If we could only find a place
along the sea. Like Cefalu’,
the ancient village on the Sicilian
coast, place of legends,
where there is a revival
of indigenous music
and poetry declaimed
in the old dialects–
or the fishing village Scilla–
an expat community,
where villas rent for a song,
in a swordfish economy.
He leaned back and closed his eyes.
We are going down with the ship, she said.
He said nothing.
She arose, was about to draw a bath
and said, please take the puppies
out on the green green grass,
as you did the other day.
Do this for me.
Tonight he is asleep.
The woman hums to herself,
hunched over like the old matriarch
a dying ember.
The stack of prescriptions
is tucked into a drawer.
The refrigerator is stocked
with fake champagne,,
long-neck bottles of fake amber beer,
dessert yogurt and coffee ice cream,
for all of their rituals.
They will make love later,
old hands at making adjustments,
lying on their backs,
touching each other
while touching themselves.
The wail of her orgasm
will carry on the wind to the prairie
where Sioux hunters once galloped,
bows drawn, into stampeding
herds of buffalo.
In the listing home
the water is hot. She stands
on her good leg, soaping herself
of sweat, his hair. After a time
she will brace up her back
and legs, to make order,
one room to the next.
For he has cleaned out the vacuums,
neatly coiled their cords,
made them ready once more
to devour the tumbleweed skeins
of white dog hair, dessicated bodies
of fallen young bees strayed
from the swarm–
and from the forest fires to the west,
come through the rotted window frames,
a fine incessant ash.
Copyright 2016 Jenne’ R. Andrews