9.1 / January 2014

Three Poems


The TV was on, CNN, a story
of an earthquake, a story of guns
and children in Uganda.
At first, we were keeping it out,
flaunting the innocence of our flesh.
I was kissing your neck, gathering
the warm loaves of your ass
into my hands, the clamoring
world had vanished, the volume
on mute. No TV, no Africa, nothing

outside our skin pressed together.
And then it was there again
falling over us, like snow, like lace
of sunlight through a curtain.
Their faces flashed over your belly,
and I was kissing them, their eyes
swollen, half-naked, ragged, as if
they’d just crawled out of hell
to some precipice, waiting for
someone to save them, but all that came
were cameras, analogs, digitals,
handhelds, cameras mounted
on shoulders like rocket launchers.
They were calling to us,

but not to us, to anyone,
their voices muted so it was the sound
of silence falling over us,
as we went on, loving
on the carpeted lace of their faces
that fell across your thigh.
I licked the sky and the barbed wire
as they watched from the wings.
We were redeeming them,
we were begetting them,
we were ignoring them; then came
the commercial break, a woman
and a bar of soap. After, we
walked out into a light rain.

Would you believe
small purple flowers so bright
in the wet green as if they’d just
been given to the world?
Would you believe there was a world?
And that it sang, that I heard it sing—
a long, slow Hallelujah
rose out of the trunks of pine
as the sun came out, shining
on the suffering and the blessed.


When America overthrew the democratic government of Iran, my mother
was a question mark curled upside down in my grandmother’s belly.

When America overthrew the democratic government of Guatemala, my father
was listening to a radio broadcast of Willie Mays and the New York Giants.

When America gave Castro a poisoned milkshake, tried to explode his beard
with a cigar, my dad was watching his father, slowly dying on the porch,
empty his pisspot over the railing toward the sandlot home plate.

When America killed the democratic leader of Chile, my father
was a waiter in an Italian restaurant in Coral Gables, bringing water
to a table where a stranger sat with a group of friends. My mother
blew the wrapper off the straw, and my father thought her immature.

When America exploded the democratic leader of Ecuador,
I was learning how to draw palm trees in my front yard;
between the gardenia and the red brick stoop, a duck had laid a nest of eggs.

When America crashed the plane of the leader of Panama,
my mom told me it was beautiful, my drawing.
Whatever I drew, my mother told me it was beautiful.

In the year my mother died, America finally overthrew
the democratic government of America.

When my father dies, I already have plans
to bury him beside my mother,
against both of their wishes,
and then I, America, wild with grief,
am going to overthrow
the democratic government of Antarctica
with my army of one, and wait
for the ice to melt.


While we wait here for empire to fall
the next empire to rise
and a hand touches a face inside the retro womb of night
or outside the womb, art deco lights and the gates of parsley and cilantro
where are we waiting, when have you found me
how long, come back, even in these sentences
the seventies, the eighties, the nineties
voices fray and wisp, fray and wisp and collide
while we wait, pretending to be real
skeletons jangling down the street
fully fleshed with grief
and sugar crystals
we stand among words yet we are not words
nor are we men
nor the moon that retains all rights
to spit on us to shine our shoes.

Sam Taylor is the author of Body of the World (Ausable/Copper Canyon) and the forthcoming collection, Nude Descending an Empire (Pitt Poetry Series, 2014). He is an Assistant Professor in the MFA program at Wichita State University. You can read more of his work on the web at www.samtaylor.us.
9.1 / January 2014