WERE I TO PREPARE FOR YOUR DEATH
were it winter in every inch
of the body, were it raised up
mountain green and star-ward,
were the horse unbridled
in her stall—storyteller;
I go into that cave, blind
and like your father, devoted,
I bring something sweet for you
to trample the dryness of crossing
so many bridges on fire.
BABY JESSICA: MIDLAND, TEXAS
Where I am from, on October 14,
1987, The earth swallowed a girl
whole. There were other children
but it chose her to be the world’s
baby—a reverse birth: Many languages
prayed for the re-emergence
of the girl we fell for, taken for
a reason only one could explain
through love: It was too much
for the men with their power,
found to be useless, heads spun on
how to unbury a living daughter.
One of her rescuers, years later, wrote,
I’m sorry to check out this way, but life sucks.
He only held her once. Did he pull, before pulling
the trigger, or reach for her, the world.
Where I am from, the earth is taken,
drilled. Soon, there will be nothing
but holes in patterns, a quilt like a banquet—
terracotta table to feed my family, everyone’s
family, feeding the world’s collective machine.
Shannon Elizabeth Hardwick received her MFA from Sarah Lawrence College. Her first full-length book, Before Isadore, is forthcoming from Sundress Publications. She is an associate poetry editor for The Boiler Journal. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in the following: Salt Hill, Stirring, Versal, The Texas Observer, Devil's Lake, Four Way Review, among others. Hardwick also has chapbooks out with Thrush Press and Mouthfeel Press. She writes in the deserts of West Texas.