Rumpus Original Poetry: Three Poems from Erica Wright





The Last Animal Book

What great beasts we ignore,
______counting our appliances, proud

to know a few Latin phrases.
______Quid pro quo—its near symmetry

a stand-in for all the near wins,
______i.e., all the losses. As when we lost

the Barbary lion, its fur no match
______for our progress. But chin up!

If we pay for a ticket, we can know
______its skeleton, sing our praise

to how simulation guesses at muscle,
______gives us hide then the details

of our gone. We can share our lust
______for flesh peeled away, feel like part

of something long enough to forget—
______soon we’ll only have each other

left to kill. Though warned, we turn
______back toward what were our cities,

almost see their spires in the ash.
______We risk our guilt to confirm:

all burning. Have you made a fire before?
______Yes, you have? Then you know its secret,

that our desire can serve a lesser god,
______make homes into sacrifice. We give up

the plains, too, in this vista.
______We know “scorched” when we see it.

And if the cry of some hawk
______breaks through the roar?

It wasn’t a hawk but the slow, sure
______call of our demise.


Inventory at Thirty-Five

We sing the hymns of our youth
______but wrong—the chords too much

for our thin voices to reach.
______How almighty, how everlasting!

Oh. On Tuesday, recycling
______and half-price wind chimes.

On Wednesday, another aisle.
______We take our beetles to the trash

to save our maples then return
______to more carnage. Why tell us

the war ends when the war
______has no beginning and no end?

Traffic cops wave us through
______the school zone. We creep.

Fifteen pairs of shoes but none
______for dancing. Binoculars and rot.

A hard lease through August
______plus a salvaged table

and a set of dull knives.
______Plans for another job interview

with questions not to ask (hypothetical).
______If a gun goes off, does your policy

state under desk or through an exit?
______Don’t say gun next to children.

What gun? What children?
______The only ones here are invisible.


Oil & Water

I sweat through my best dress,
______say thank goodness to the cashier

who tells me it wasn’t always so hot,
______not as pretty either, he assures me.

I wonder if he means the refineries,
______and God bless, he’s right about their glow,

the perpetual flame not so much honor
______as emergency, a stopgap in case

the worst happens as it happens
______more often now. Or money,

all those lights churning out jobs
______in a town that doesn’t need bait anymore.

Feet wet with film that won’t scrub off—
______nobody comes near me,

but I survived my childhood bullies,
______and I’ll survive this shunning, too.

When asked to say something
______at the funeral, I worry I’ll miss

the anecdote that makes everyone
______feel better for a second. Here’s another:

The last explosion caught him
______by surprise, and the O of his mouth

made a portal to a better world
______for those who believe we can put down

our solvents for a spell, put on
______our shiniest shoes while we mourn.

Erica Wright's newest crime novel The Blue Kingfisher was released in October 2018 from Polis Books. Her debut The Red Chameleon was one of O Magazine's Best Books of Summer 2014. Her followup The Granite Moth was a 2016 Silver Falchion Award Finalist. She is also the author of two poetry collections, Instructions for Killing the Jackal and All the Bayou Stories End with Drowned. She is a senior editor at Guernica as well as a former editorial board member for Alice James Books. More from this author →