On Northern cliffs
a wind-whipped froth
from the waves
on the rocks;
across the Asian steppes,
of newly-broken colts,
lather spins to lacework,
down to salt;
in godforsaken desert lands,
a flock of aging hermits
falters at their prayers;
the swallowing sands.
progressing over the earth,
of darkness drag
a residue of human dreams—
the gathering dust
of the tears of things:
there are tides,
That summer in the parklands, we tramped the roped-off paths
obeying Keep Off signs that claimed the fragile desert soils
were coming back from years of damage: it looked unlikely.
Left to ourselves, we named the massive wind-eroded boulders:
Seated Prophet, Child Hiding in Her Mama’s Skirts,
Lichen-Man-in-Soft-Hat Pissing. We knelt on cinder paths
as gingerly as we’d been taught to kneel at graves, lowering
our gaze ant-level with the dirt, eyeing an expanse
of monoliths writ small: as above, so below.
That evening, back at our motel, even the wall sockets took on faces,
tiny Münches screaming woe woe woe at our ankles.
One morning, hunched at the North Rim, underdressed
for the gusts, we recognized that our new mother needed time;
we changed our expectations. Later, from lodge windows
high above the ice fields, we watched the tiny figures
of our parents pack the car—suitcases, cooler, maps. Below
on the parking lot they looked so young—as if
they might drive off and not look back.
A decade later, Apollo 17 turned Earth to the famous
blue marble, and we saw we’d been left like a newborn
on the firehouse steps, swathed in a smooth, blue gauze.
By the time Earth drew its next breath, I loved it hopelessly
and knew we were inadequate to this, all of us.
Fast forward fifty summers—
Routinely now, we view our Earth from space,
its face beamed down from satellites, as experts warn
of imperiled soils, shrinking ice fields, spreading deserts,
depletion of the blue-green algae: woe, woe, woe, and it all
comes back, our summer in the parks, the unvoiced
question: What if we are not loved, after all?
Marjorie Stelmach has published five volumes of poems, most recently Falter (Cascade, 2017). Previous volumes include, Bent upon Light and A History of Disappearance (University of Tampa Press) and Without Angels (Mayapple). Her first book, Night Drawings, received the Marianne Moore Prize from Helicon Nine Editions. More recently, a selection of her poems received the first Missouri Biennial Award. and a group of her poems received the 2016 Chad Walsh Poetry Prize from The Beloit Poetry Journal. Individual poems have recently appeared in American Literary Review, Boulevard, Florida Review, Gettysburg Review, Hudson Review, Image, The Iowa Review, New Letters, Poet Lore, and Tampa Review.