First the sky
broken by birds
flying at the wrong season.
Then the heat goes & the breath goes out
& we are left alone & voiceless
between the blue untextured sky
& the terrible smooth water.
And then the howling like the seam ripped out
& all the under waters & the howling gods.
After, the live oaks & honey locusts storm-shorn.
The shorebirds’ great nests splintered
& all the fishing houses split-legged & sodden.
The dead lifted in their rotten boxes
& left to bob in storm water. The shoreline
carried out to sea.
What is this raw & wind-worn place
we have survived into. The wrong gods
roar into our lungs now.
A weeping sound like that. Like those birds
calling across the suddenly open water.
The Siren of Barataria
As a baby she was given to the swamp.
She was laid down in the reeds
& swaddled in the maidencane still summer-bright.
She cried one time and the boatman came running.
He laid a dew-slick strip of swamp grass
on her tongue & when she swallowed it was sweet
& struck her dumb.
So it was not her voice
that called the waters from the gulf.
She never wished the winds, the cracking & the weeping
& the wailing sounds that came from town.
The god found her as she slept below the overpass.
He stitched a feather collar along her clavicle
& so gave her back her voice. After that
she was a songbird.
They went on this way some time, singing & touching
as the waters rose & receded.
Then, after several seasons’ calm,
the god found a farmhand whose ankle he longed to kiss.
The siren smelled the barnyard on him
& she knew.
When the townsmen came to flush the winter game
with burning, the siren walked a slow loop in the lit grass.
The whole marsh smoked with smoldering peat.
Her white dress caught & turned to ash.
Town Anatomy II
[the Sibyls speak]
Our tongues are marvelous,
all fire & revelation.
The men come
dirty-haired & swamp-eyed.
They kneel. We make them.
& when the spirit comes
we speak. When the spirit comes
we are roaring & plate-eyed.
It is like cicadas
like a seawall
in the skull.
Not your indoor god, all candles
& low hum. Though the men
come not for answers, but to hear
their words reflected
in a woman’s pitch.
The girls come only
when they are swelled up
& the trouble is on them heavy.
Sometimes we let them sit
the heavy months with us.
Sometimes we take the trouble
mewling from their breasts
& kiss the trouble
so it will learn to sing. Sometimes
we leave it wailing below the cypress.
After, the Sibyls Fall Out of Words
No god moves us now
so we are wordless & unhinged,
like the dark-ribbed maidens
lost to the gulf. We won’t have
the men’s hands on us now. Not even
the god like a horsemaster.
He’s just a whisper in the under
now. When the rain comes
we open our throats to it.
When the storms come
we are crucifixed to the pylons.
Saved & spared are different
& you will learn that now.