April 11, 2012

Emily Severance

Arctic Reticence
(Camp Clay, June 1884)

The rescuers arrived
two years and eighteen men too late.
Long, still able to stand,
waved a flag from his lookout
pointed over the hill where the others lay,
staggered towards the ice battered ship.

Outside the half collapsed tent
Brainard tried to salute.  Inside
Greely swayed on hands and knees
--red skull cap, tattered dressing gown--
could find his eyeglasses, but not
his name.

Connell lay wide eyed and motionless.
Fredericks and Bierderbick
crouched nearby,
poured out the last
teaspoons of brandy to revive him
as they’d nursed the other dying and dead.

Empty tins scattered across the floor
spoke the sorrow of stomachs:
hope as a missed morsel.

Hands and feet
frozen off months before, Elison
lifted a spoon-tied right arm
from his sealskin cocoon.  Jelly
boiled from strips of sealskin
the only visible food.

After mouthfuls of hardtack and pemmican
rejuvenated tongues
remembered meals of
reindeer moss and ptarmigan
but none of the seven
could speak of who
cut strips of flesh
from the rocky cemetery’s
unearthed dead.

Albuquerque Westerly

Everybody’s going crazy from wind—
staying inside as much as they can.
Five days carefully opening doors
so they don’t tear off hinges or chop off a hand.
People walk backwards or with faces twisted to the side. 
Sand erases the Sandias.

I leave cars huddled under
camera surveillance cottonwoods,
enter the treeless south where smashed glass curbs
mark where innocents parked.

A lizard’s scaly tail flicks
around stray cat lips.
A ten year old rides her pink three speed;
thighs pumping past the West Mesa crime scene.
Everyone else locked up
tight with tvs.

Days like this, women
who have to escape faux adobe homes
find exposed bones.
Sand that’s caressed strangled street walkers,
blasts across the Rio Grande,
              batters police cruisers,
tears through our hair.


Emily Severance has an MFA in studio art from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Blue Fifth Review, Drunken Boat, Gargoyle, Juked, qarrtsiluni, and many other fine places. She teaches in New Mexico.

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