Issue 2:1 | Poetry | Sara Pennington

4 Poems
By Sara Pennington


                                            Who knows

what might happen while youve got your beak

pressed in the mesh picking out thistle,


or what might befall you, your head

bent over a salt block, a clump

of tender fern tendrils, a gazelle carcass.


Why eat when you might die eating? Or maybe

youll miss a poem, a proper thought, the sight

of chickadees, blue jays, and cardinals jockeying,


fighting, for position at the feeder

you put out last week. Or you might fail

to hear the deer rooting through the trash.


God told the Israelite soldiers to drink

from cupped hands, attentive; that lapping

like dogs from the river might kill them.


Nourishment is nothing

if not a necessary distraction. But hunger--

that river you see running under


the skin at the soft inside of your elbow,

its urgent lapping like a dogs tongue at the walls

of your stomach, raw, irritated--hunger


demands your attention like a red-tailed hawk

youve not seen before preening in your yard,

or a platoon, well-armored and armed, bearing down


on you from the hillside, and you busy, watching

the birds in your binoculars, caught off guard.





I am those three hundred

silhouettes sky-trafficking,


those serrated turkey vulture

wings. And I am the horizon,


a sluggish hover. Wind-pressed

against a twiggy net of hillside


yesterday I swarmed, oil-black

like box elder bugs. I was


that lustrous breeding on your garage

wall last month. I hung there,


teeming like those middle-school

fight-circles. Even then,


I would watch you plowing

through those crowds, gawking


at your shoes. You still dont know

what to look at, do you?





Beside your salt block, the milkweeds

poked stiff between my shoulders.

I dangled from your barbed wire.


The middle strand of rusty stars

ripped the secret skin of my thigh.

Myopic, I forgot 50 yards of time.


Silhouettes of women hung

in the medusa-hair of trees, black

but shimmering, eels swimming


in a milky aquarium. That swollen scar

still arcs between my legs. You have no idea

what Im doing now. Can you possibly


be that sharp-eyed?

                                 Blurry, you fumbled

toward me through whirling spokes,

gathering those dozens of murky crows.






Forget that it sounds exactly

like it sounds to them--that you got her

pregnant when she was fifteen

and now youre getting divorced. What they hear

is only an echo of what we know--


like the replica of my voice

calling back at me when I would holler

for you to come to dinner as kids, the sun

pressing its way through the comb

of trees on the hilltop--


as if they were a neighbor, missing

my original call out to you and hearing

only my voice bouncing toward them

from the wrong direction.


And forget about the sound

of her telling you

that there wasnt anybody else,

that things had just changed,

like something seismic, unexpected,

as if getting older and bored with you

were palpable.

                         And forget that they

always expected what you saw last night:

her making out in the grocery store

parking lot with the baseball coachs

twice-divorced son.


You didnt know your life was shifting,

exactly, in the way

all those others always figured it would--

a landslide breaking away

from the slope, a fragment

gathering force in its separateness. You

only wanted a beautiful girl who laughed

at your jokes to love you and, someday,

to live with you among these hills,

among these reverberating hollows.



Sara Pennington