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News of the World

I dreamed all the boats in the world had run aground,
the lakes vanished into hardpan, and the great migrations
of birds had strayed so far off track, there were lost birds
everywhere– one in my closet, nestled
with socks in the laundry.  When I looked at him,
he looked back with hunted human eyes.

Then I was leading an ass in some diaspora,
up out of a mountain village, up over rocks
and red dirt.  The children’s feet were bleeding
and I said to the donkey: Let me put the small ones
on your back.  And the poor beast fell dead in its tracks —
another thing we had ruined.

*                      *                      *

Daybreak comes in scattered birdsong, low
sun on bronze ferns, the wild cinnamon
scent of a changing season.  We move
in and out, protecting the flowerpots,
sealing the windows and doors.  Save
for dreaming, we know how to shut things out.

By evening fires now, we watch
the ravages of a hot world and violent dying.
The network’s correspondent hunkers down
beside a nineteen-year-old girl in Syria.  She
is cradling her automatic, intends to defend
to the death this colossal dustbin of bombed-out

nothingness — streets, buildings, everything that once made this
a city of the living.  The two lie on a bed
of sandbags.  Still we clink — as if to toast all that’s been lost
in a day’s time–bottoms-up to our neediness
to hear the anchor tell us how, for all the suffering, it’s not upon us
here, and nothing worse has happened — at least for now.



  1. Betsy Sholl on

    Of course I meant what a beautiful poem. Thank you for giving us clear and painful and beautiful rendering.

  2. Betsy Sholl on

    Marcia, who a beautiful poem, capturing the painful split between empathy and distance. “Save for dreaming, we know how to shut things out”–yes. And yes to all the beautifully rendered details.

  3. Dzvinia Orlowsky on

    Marcia, it is so good to see your wonderful poem in this issue. I remain a fan of your work!

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