Excerpt from Stand Our Ground: Poems for Trayvon Martin and Marissa Alexander
From the midst of the nether
world I cried for help.
—from the Book of Jonah
A gray whale blows off Cardiff Beach,
just beyond the glamour homes,
boutiques, and drive-thru windows,
valet service and all-u-can-eat sushi.
I want to swim out and be swallowed.
Jonah’s whale wasn’t Ahab’s, all
tripey white and peg-toothed, but
a strainer of phosphorescent shrimp,
which lamped the reeking gut, like
fireflies we swallowed once, in jars.
The crumpled woman pushes through the door
and sees your plump limp limbs
held tight in my buckled arms.
She remembers holding
such sweet eternity.
life's bright beating softens here.
Some say it holds the place of time,
watch springs wrapped tight
under the bone.
Waking, he is held by his father,
whose arms have newly borne
to breathe heavily
into our enemy chest.
Deep with one savior’s death, how many more?
In observance of which, the Dresden burghers
as usual held Shrove Tuesday circuses
around Our Lady’s Church, the Frauenkirche,
eating pancakes before their fast for Easter.
At midnight, Allies drew ash from their firestorm
on a hundred-thousand heads. Remember,
the Good War’s firesticks on Dresden’s timbers
in revenge for Coventry, where in embers
Ash Wednesday passion plays were once performed,
You wait a long time for Christmas morning
drifting asleep even as the ebony slate of sky
shatters in clarion silence
and shepherds in the hills cast down their rods
look up at angels and find themselves
no longer huddled in darkness
but lucent between the stars.
You, no longer a child but still drifting,
enter the mystery that is darkness
willing to open the gift inside your own singing
recognizing the song of songs from the first Eve—
We all live for the Light
He uproots teeth primordial in nature and that eat his soul
with appetite the size of mercenary forces plundering a city
whose inhabitants do not fight back because most of them
are women, children, and animals that creep on all fours.
He knows of a city not spared and is without name, unlike Nineveh,
whose repentant king decreed:
Human beings and animals shall be covered with sackcloth,
and they shall cry mightily to God.
He thinks of what to do but knows that he is not the prophet