Two Poems by Kimberly Campanello
Visit Kimberly at kimberlycampanello.com
On Red Arrow Highway
On Red Arrow Highway
the cat’s leg is rigor mortised in a salute.
Children scramble on hands and knees
in the cemetery, chasing hot shells
that rain down from 21 guns.
The US Army chaplain holds a feather
and a knife wrapped in beaded leather.
He explains Memorial Day and the role
of warriors in his tribe and in America
He prays to the Earth, the Great Spirit, and Jesus Christ.
That night at the table my father says,
They lost. The Indians. They should have
fought harder. They should quit whining.
I am holding a bone to my mouth.
I am licking and biting and sucking.
I am tossing it into a bowl with the others.
I could counter with a list of fighting things—
drones, democratically-elected leaders deposed
and replaced by dictators, assisted
ethnic cleansing, Fort Benning,
the Glocks we buy for our kids
to shoot on the ranges or at school.
We sit and chew ribs with salt and beer.
We separate spine from flesh.
We talk with bones in our mouths.
We talk with our mouths full of them
and what we say is dead and hollow.
Spring hangs leaves indiscriminately,
throws down dandelions onto vacant lots.
Another body is loosened from the canal bottom
by a cormorant gulping fresh spawn.
Councils purge piebald horses,
round them up for secret executions
as families tidy Tidy Town hopefuls,
blow dust from the paths
though it blows back in their faces,
blast moss from the stone wall at the crossroads
where the boy made his gallows speech
for stealing an apple
before he was hanged and wrapped
in the freshest sheet his skin had ever touched.
In these long-lit days women walk home
a different way, or a little later
or in less clothing.
Some regret it. Others know they could.
That old phrase of possession
meant as a deterrent—
Would you want someone to do that
to your own sister?
Imagine she is your daughter.
Though in that speech the boy said it—
The apple was not mine—
and was hanged anyway.
In my kitchen I get down
on hands and knees
and scrub floors the Alabama way
and think of kettlefuls
of boiling water poured down
women’s throats by priests
or members of the laity
and how some folks pressure-hosed
some others or hanged them
from live oak trees.
These poems previously appeared in The Stinging Fly and will be published in the full-length collection Consent (Doire Press) in May 2013.