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Category archive for: Sherwin Bitsui

Untitled 9

Gnawing coarse hair from

the ink-splattered eaves of the darkened house

they attempt to pull the survivor from its flood

but stop to comment on how dark his skin is

how wooden his face looks

when photographed on a horse facing west;

as if to name reeds piercing the horse’s neck: whale bones wrapped in turtle hide,

as if to reach into the loom’s ribs and wring bear blood from handspun red wool.

from Flood SongFind it in the library

Copyright © 2009 Sherwin Bitsui
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Untitled 6

Downwind from the body’s yellow teeth,

children whisper night

amniotic clouds of car exhaust

foaming to a lather above them.

They are later found deboned—

plucked from the narrowing fi eld—

ears pulled back,

a nation growling into them

as they scrape double-plumed birdsongs

from the beaks of drowned hummingbirds

and smash them into eagle-bone whistles

then ringlets of fire

then the blood of orphaned lambs.

from Flood SongFind it in the library

Copyright © 2009 Sherwin Bitsui
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Untitled 1

I bite my eyes shut between these songs.

They are the sounds of blackened insect husks

folded over elk teeth in a tin can,

they are gull wings fattening on cold air

flapping in a paper sack on the chlorine-stained floor.

They curl in corners, spiked and black-thatched,

stomp across the living-room ceiling,

pull our hair one strand at a time from electric sockets

and paint our stems with sand in the kitchen sink.

They speak a double helix,

zigzag a tree trunk,

bark the tips of its leaves with cracked amber—

they plant whispers where shouts incinerate into hisses.

from Flood SongFind it in the library

Copyright © 2009 Sherwin Bitsui
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Untitled 5

Those who congregated

to heat the room

swore to never do it   again,

never whip the mare,

feed it bee stings,

or dice fishing line and bait

horizontally on the mattress

to be mauled by wolves

that leave paw prints over our tangled hair.

from Flood SongFind it in the library

Copyright © 2009 Sherwin Bitsui
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Untitled 4

I carve this apple into a dove,

wrap it in a nest of boiling water.

I pinch your silences into soft whispers,

pile them on your still chest—

the marrows of turtles swirling counterclockwise inside them.

I offer a dry stem,

unfold this paper crane into a square cage.

I keep the butcher’s thumbprints here.

from Flood SongFind it in the library

Copyright © 2009 Sherwin Bitsui
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Untitled 10

In a cornfield at the bottom of a sandstone canyon,

wearing the gloves of this song tightly over closed ears;

the bursting sun presses licks of flame

into our throats swelling with ghost dogs

nibbling on hands that roped off our footprints

keeping what is outside ours tucked

beneath the warmth of their feet cooling to zero,

as they swarm luminous landmines like gnats,

as thunder shakes white sand from wet hair,

as police sirens trickle from water jars onto squash blossoms,

as starlight, opened inside a darkened room,

begins to tell its story from end to beginning      again.

from Flood SongFind it in the library

Copyright © 2009 Sherwin Bitsui
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Untitled 7

I compare my hands to what I imagine thought might look like

when suspended in fossilized amber,

release the captured mosquito from my closed hands,

string dimming gas lamps between rain and fall,

and insert into the knife’s pale origin—

a twig warming the clutching hand.

from Flood SongFind it in the library

Copyright © 2009 Sherwin Bitsui
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Untitled 8

Coyote howls canyons into windows painted on the floor with crushed turquoise;

captured cranes secrete radon in the epoxied toolshed;

leopard spots, ripe for drilling, ooze white gas when hung on a copper wire.

I pull electricity from their softened bellies with loom yarn.

I map a shrinking map.

from Flood SongFind it in the library

Copyright © 2009 Sherwin Bitsui
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Untitled 2

I cover my eyes with electrical wires,

see yellow dawn eclipse Stop signs,

turn green and screech into phosphorescence.

Each flickering finger:

a memory of a flashing yellow sign,

blinks between charcoal sheets of monsoon rain

then slices through the thawing of our hunger

with the cracked eaves of a shattered house.

Its autobiographical muscle —

stringing trees into a forest, convulses,

only to be flattened under its metallic leaves

and sold as bricks for its basement of fire.

from Flood SongFind it in the library

Copyright © 2009 Sherwin Bitsui
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

Untitled 3

An ax in his hand,

he heard a crow digging wren eggs

from beaks tied with eyelash hair

and asked the summer,

“What happened in the ellipses?

What happened when gunfire blew into their speech

and left one language hanging by a nail

at the entrance of mouths

flooded with such things as the down of drowned herons

and the mud-covered hooves of drought

kicking at the rain-stained earth

devoured by minutes and seconds

sticking to their shoes like sap,

their onions peeled back,

bees dangling like half moths out of their eyes?”

from Flood SongFind it in the library

Copyright © 2009 Sherwin Bitsui
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Copper Canyon Press.

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.