When the Answer Is No

The elder gods sleep and don’t care
about you or your precious egrets

You kicked him, you kicked the disaster
god, and now a webby hand

tastes nothing like persimmons or paradise
Did you think you were more than tissue?

A prophetic gull carried away
your plastic-cup soul to an underwater city

suddenly aroused: what lives beneath
is bad when turbulence ruptures its sleep

So much for the powers of humans
You set a thing in motion at irregular angles

man wasn’t meant to graph, and every grain
of sand for centuries will bear a licking of oil,

a guilt-tongue grown from your heart



I am always mindful of Joan Retallack’s word “poet(h)ics” in deriving my vocabulary of space from the natural and altered landscape. That is, I feel a duty to make sure my mind-field includes human interactions, for good or ill, with the world: in my state, the highways one travels were created by massive removal of metamorphic rock; humans feel compelled to create graffiti statements of identity to write over the palimpsest of railroad beds. The way in which I construct poems, then, reflects the fractures and juxtapositions that are inevitable at this point in history.


Gwyn McVay is the author of two chapbooks of poems and one full-length collection, Ordinary Beans (Pecan Grove Press, 2007).  She teaches writing at Millersville University and Temple University.

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