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Erin Renee Wahl
United States of America

Mere & Child - Penny Howard
Erin Renee Wahl's work has previously appeared in Sterling, Meat for Tea, Literary Juice, Suisun Valley Review, and Dirty Chai. She currently lives in Fairbanks, Alaska where she's building a house.

The pieces of the hawk's nest have blown
down again, and on the sidewalk, a coiled
rattlesnake watching the sun rise. There's
a woodpecker trying to eat the nectar
in the hummingbird feeder. It seems he's
succeeding. The hummingbirds look pissed.
At exactly the moment it should, the afternoon
will rise up dragon-mouthed to strike
all the living things into shadows and cool
places and kick up the dust living with no
rain to save it. All those boys are going to climb
down to the grey water to hide out, watching
for scorpions. No one will be drinking
hot tea today. The girls will wish for water
when they get too far along the path by
the rounded rocks where long ago the people
who lived in this land placed their hands
just-so to grind up grain. The heat moves
the mountains like it should. Somewhere up
ahead the wind blows sand grains over
the trail and covers up the path we all take.

Going Home in Portland

Beautiful fast-moving people on the cloud
train, with a million millimeters more to go
moseying down the dark green shadow corridor
to meet the old metal roses. Carry your divining
rod with you because you don't know where
the water is or where it should be, and the shadow
mirrors are long along the road. Carry your beard
in your pocket, and your mustache. Emergencies
call for one or both. At the fork in the road, hold
out your divining rod and go the long way,
which is always best. Wait for the one you see
with holes in her pockets and stones in her palms
and offer to go with her. She's the one who knows
the trapezoid and the trees, and neither one is red
unless you come as a couple to the edge
of the dead-end brick. The best vehicles are all stuck
in grooves and the way is studded like Christmas lights
and all the brilliant boys and girls in sequin gowns.
If you get to the end you can always begin again
because the city is a circle and the wheedling wheeze
is smoke-hung silhouettes always begging to differ. Until
you see this is right you're only a crystalline drop on the
web of beautiful fast-moving people on the cloud train.

Bleak Voodoo Dust

The world, purple as a bruise
and just as quiet, revolves.
Your skin tells me everything
I need to know before the next sun sets.
Then the morning, which is
just the same as watermelon lens dreams.
Reaching out, I grab at water vapors like you.
The world revolves.

I'm left to wonder why you collect
the scattered slivers of broken glass
and how you use them in the winter.
Your teeth don't hurt, they've forgotten how.
Gnawing on your glass pieces till they
shine back at you like love through your burning
lips and your lacerated cheeks till you're
spitting blood.

I'm left scavenging the pieces of your skin from the floor
creating a little you for me out of those and bleak voodoo dust.
Dawn breaks purple before the sun crashes in
and there's that revolution too.

Arizona, 1899

The skeletons are hanging,
strung up by feathers,
simply shining in their black
and white. And the old gals of history
polish their pistols in preparation for the stage
coach. Count out one dollar for each.
It's like this when the dust whirls in
with the heat, all the girls have to survive
with what they've got while their men's
bones bleach in the desert or sit around
their flesh rot in the saloons. Zigzag,
tracing your boots in the dust
and try to outrun those long-arms
before they catch you sleeping under
the old yucca. No better time
for a gal with a head on her shoulders
and a bullet in her gun to make a name
for herself. Who cares if her skirt hem
gets a little dirty? History repaints it
glittering gold. Million dollar movie
maven, starring role you'll never see
to make a career for another bright vixen
using the heat and the light to blind herself.