9.3 / March 2014

Three Poems


listen to this poem

They appeared suddenly, as if out of thin air:
two men covered in filth, long of beard and tooth.

Gaunt and jaundiced, they followed us with clouded eyes
unblinking from church steps to liquor store,

from parked cars to post office. We meant to tell them
transients weren’t welcome, but we never got the nerve.

They never addressed us. When they bent to whisper
in each other’s ears, small black puffs wafted up

and their fingers grew red with the glow of something
hidden just behind the cupped hands hiding their mouths.

Last week, when those three teenage girls were found
dead, cigarettes still pinched in their teeth,

we tried to find the strangers—who else could we
suspect?—but the corner they’d been standing on

for what had seemed like years was empty except
for two bent walking sticks left leaning on the wall.

Outside, the air was beginning to shift—to cool.
In the far distance, a cloud bank darkened. Moved closer.

Bad Omen

just last week the river turned red
got a rust look and a crowbar flavor

someone told an uneasy joke that ended with
the good news is she was covered in crabs

but nothing rose up, not even the bodies
of perch       we expected I don’t know what

but it was the silence, the smooth look
of that stained-glass ruby water

that unnerved us most       frogs we can handle
horse flies happen everyday and a few more

wouldn’t hurt us       even boils we could cure
with a compress of hickory and sassafras

but that slow-turning ochre sings out to us
draws us more closely to its lip


a kid with a wreath of pansies
pressed over its ears: firstborn

driven forward into the streets.
rough effigy sent out with our sins

appended, what drains from its throat
smeared across our foreheads.

if we don’t offer a sacrifice, it will be taken.
this is the deal we’ve accepted.

we have seen the dark hosts looming,
seen mothers wailing over emptied cribs.

we have seen the pillar of fire
burning in the distance,

the smell of charred flesh
carried back to us by the wind.

Darby K. Price is an MFA candidate in Poetry at George Mason University, where she is the Heritage Fellow and the Poetry Editor for Phoebe: A Journal of Literature and Art. Her work has previously appeared in The Southeast Review and Cimarron Review.
9.3 / March 2014