Poems

SHAMALA GALLAGHER Late Morning

Late morning & the world burns.           I cannot
++++++++++++++++++++believe it.
+++++So caught am I gazing
++++++++++at my own aging face.

Late morning, late August.

Late morning & Lexapro.         The world burns &
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++sometimes we watch.

Slivers of a burnt-world morning.
++++++++++The South is wild-green & historic

& on the street it blurs. I see into
+++++the face of a slave.              Then the street

is street again. Then the street

is basketball & shouts at the night.                 Late morning—

The reef is dying
+++++++++++++++says Kristen. She’s crying.
It’s 18 million years old & it’s dying.

Late morning. Insistence is a strange deer

one day in the yard,
++++++++++the grass longer. The hummingbird feeder

unvisited for weeks. Then Adam yells out: he’s here!

He!          & so someone black-quick is tipped-beak,
genderblurred, maze-flitting, there

& nights: the families porch-gather

& if this is burning,
late-morning, if this is
the burnt-heart
world, and it is,

let me stand in the street at the white-hot

on the elbow’s crook, on the thumb &
other. In my eyes let me slave &
not, slave & knot. Let my eyes go full. I want
a burnt heart if the world’s burnt. Late morning.

Sweet oils for the wrinkles
+++++++++++++++on my face.

Eating raisins night.
++++++++++Midnight Adam sneaks

into the chocolates.

Basketballs and shouts: evening.
++++++++++Teenagers near the river.

Braless slow evening. The brain a heavy
++++++++++fruit. Failure all blue-knotted,

blue-eaten midnight berries,
+++++walls of the house

furred & dusted. Marquavius

is seven and looking to be hired
+++++by Adam. All the neighborhood

boys at the door. Want Adam.

Sand is in a six a.m. soliloquy: moon-stained
+++++skin. I can see her

through the cheap slats
+++++of my study. Late morning: all
times at once. Late morning.

Adam plays records.

White voices with black
+++++songs in the mouths—too
sweet.

+++++Grown-out crabgrass. Jean

complains:
the cat has kittens. Lexapro:
++++++++++I take a swamp-dark
brain to Jean’s house.

I like your dress, she says. Wretch-me.
Sleep is a shut door.

Four tiny-mouths look
+++++up with eyes.

Shut door, late morning, against
+++++the ending-world. It is nine p.m.
One night’s clamor of cat-voices.

Late morning, the night

a shut face.
The eyes are facing

forward. Sand is drunk
++++++++++and has words
in her teeth. I am always

waving at the neighbors, smiling. Friday

night: alone is an unbearable
+++++bauble, the South in my face.

Late morning, one gift
for the evening’s end.
++++++++++Oh, pill-wonder.

Skirt fallen open, black
++++++++++hairs. The feeders

squirrel-taken. The squirrel’s skull

quick in the rain.

++++++++++Late morning.
++++++++++The rain
++++++++++makes the world a room

and the men are
+++++drunk. Will the world
end and we will stay

++++++++++in our houses?
Will I never stand
+++++on Sand’s porch with

her, intertwining
+++++monologues as the thunder

gathers? I have given up drink

and am impatient
++++++++++because I wanted

my soul drunk in return.

Shamala Gallagher is an Indian/Irish American poet and essayist whose recent work appears in PoetryBlack Warrior ReviewWest BranchThe Offingthe Rumpus, and elsewhere, and is forthcoming in the second volume of Bettering American Poetry. She is working on a memoir/essay collection.