Rumpus Original Poetry: Three Poems by Michael Wasson





T H E S E   S W A L L O W E D   P R A Y E R S   A S   C R E A T I O N   M Y T H

wáaqo’ ’óykalana titóoqana hinéesmux̣sin ’ilcwéew’cixnim.

& yet for ages we’ve been holding on
to this silence     as any child born I learn to move
these forsaken hands along the damp walls of this god-

less body     as if I too am your animal     the only torch
this monstrous heartbeat rippling everywhere & no-
where     I reach towards a blurred opening to the other

room     meaning a life-sized rupture left vibrating
like decades around a skeleton     listen—the xím xím
xím of the animals twists into your body     was made

to always hold you in place     & this you has come so far
so why not disappear     just this once     the ink
drowning the eyes     the bloodstream carrying the body

on & into the white noise of translation     & soon
this you tears open the brief sáw between its own ribcage
under a newer light     a fresh fracture like softened ear

bones ringing after another heavy rain of holy
gunfire     have I gone too far?     I pray for I might enter back
to when we were all once singing láw láw láw     before

the jaws of ’ilcwéew’cix devoured us      as though a city
now vanished     we who built its bright-white cathedrals
of bone     & hear the dark—unlike any other     whispers

of our faceless gods buried into the flesh     every exit
a fire escape     the flexed diaphragm a pupil’s black-
lit aperture capturing the muzzled breath of our beloved

dead     & yet through the dead—here, your body inside
the body—is the only way out     isn’t it?     you desperate
desperate animals     run until you enter the earth     alive

you are     trust me.


Y O U R   S T I L L – L I F E   I S   N O   L O N G E R   S T I L L

Your hands bright red as the skin / of the red delicious

we shredded / to taste what’s closest / to the core / this

isn’t the blood / of our newest ghosts / the snow

touching the skin / of only the living / will become

beads / of breakable sky / shiver, my dear— / for we are

soon to be so / gone / this same land is smearing / into

America / my hair smelling / of river water—is this

an omen? a telling? a foreshadow? now tell me / we’ll make it

to the end / of our unanswerable lives / tell me how / the cities

will make our bodies / beautiful enough to forever / be locked

behind a glass cage / with our broken names / show my tongue

the only way / to dance until the whorl / of dark silk below

your belly- / button is as slick as the pink / of our animal

tongues / give me / the directions to a place / bursting with

mosquitoes—full of / welts & terrors you’ll always know / we’ll know

the coming / of someone’s jesus let’s call hunger / dear,

it’s the end / of winter so / sleep next to me until / the black

under our eyelids / is no longer the thinnest slip of skin

but the mid- / night of a country growing / before us

tell me this / will never ruin us / god, tell me / please.


T H E   T H I R D   M E A S U R E   P A U S E D   &   S E T   T O   Y O U R   B R E A T H I N G

How might it feel to be a vessel
of light? Like a moon held in the throat

of the sky—a cold pressing the lips
enough to shatter the tongue

of any open mouth. Somewhere
at the distance of centuries

your body could penetrate the skin
of my eyelid like this

until the ceiling of the house
burned away. Leaving me

& you on the bedspread—side-
by-side—our bones never once touching

lost in orbit around tonight. I swallow
what remains of the failing air

like a casket dissolving
over a god’s awful taste

buds. So how might it feel, Lord—
to live only behind

the teeth. Death pointing inward.
The spine reaching

in both directions. The stars
unraveling from inside

the head. How might it feel
to be so vanished

that any movement is
but a brief torch lighting

your scented ankles now
gone—a smear of

fire ignited in some-
body’s lost history. Lord

press your fingertips
into me. Let me treasure

your touch enough to cave
my ribs in. To crush me

so gentle now that I am made
to be the very last light

gravity remembers.

Michael Wasson is the author of This American Ghost (YesYes Books, 2017). The recipient of a 2018 NACF National Artist Fellowship in Literature and the 2017 Adrienne Rich Award, his poems appear in American Poets, Beloit Poetry Journal, Kenyon Review, Narrative, Poetry Northwest, and Best New Poets. He is nimíipuu from the Nez Perce Reservation in Idaho. More from this author →