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 is the author of the poetry collections All the Bayou Stories End with Drowned (Black Lawrence Press, 2017) and Instructions for Killing the Jackal (Black Lawrence Press, 2011). Her poems have appeared in Crazyhorse, Denver Quarterly, Gulf Coast, New Orleans Review, and elsewhere. She is the Poetry Editor at Guernica as well as an editorial board member of Alice James Books. Her latest novel is The Granite Moth (Pegasus, 2015). More from this author →