Aerial view of cargo ship leaving port

Two Poems by Charlotte Pence

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Another Second, Another 24 Million Pounds: A Cento*

This is the land / where whales were mountains,
where the streets became shadows
so the minnows could have some wiggle room.
One cargo ship going out. One cargo ship coming in.
As things grow rarer, they enter the ranges of counting,
so I load my / pockets and mouth.
The clouds and stars didn’t wage this war
hour after hour in daylight and dark
under silt. An owl lifts from a poplar,
the meat surprisingly white, / tasteless.
Where basalt meets granite and grains meet valleys,
we offer our land as fuel.
She burns like a shot glass of vodka.
By the coal-burning plants in Ohio, with its
cottonmouths zipper through the black water,
my garden of lambs, my pig parts,
swarmed with monarchs and swallowtails. 
The extravagant mountains         the bees in fluorescent hives.
One day we will hold the earth / again. As if She were a love.
With the night falling we are saying thank you
creaking world, how it flowers all.

 

* All lines are from Ghost-Fishing: An Eco-Justice Poetry Anthology edited by Melissa Tuckey, foreword by Camile T. Dungy.

* Lines are from the following authors in this order: Linda Hogan, Sara Goudarzi, Jane Mead, Camille T. Dungy, Jane Hirshfield, Ross Gay, Adrienne Rich, Pippa Little, Arthur Sze, Elizabeth Jacobson, Brenda Hillman, Wendell Berry, Yusef Komunyakaa, Maria Mazziotti Gillan, Ann Fisher-Wirth, Melissa Tuckey, Brian Brodeur, Clare Rossini, Tim Seibles, W.S. Merwin, and Linda Hogan.

* The title references the amount of carbon dioxide emissions per second as recorded in “Carbon Dioxide Emissions Rise to 2.4 Million Pounds Per Second”. December 2, 2012. Accessed on September 5, 2018.

 

 

Something Called Extinction

My father is the king
of gambled cards. One arm robot, one
voice thief, one hand jackpot, the other
release. There are rumors of
something called extinction, but
I’m too alive to feel it in my day-
gown amid spilling monarchs
where Mother is always happy
to let others make the plans. Her
eye sockets are sunken on the side
to better see predators. Dad and I look
straight ahead toward the future. She asks,
Don’t you think the future will stalk you
by sideways-surprise? And it will,
as will skin blistering pearls
of carcinoma, as will plastics birthing
pallets of islets, as will oceans
acidifying shells of mollusks. For now,
I remind my parents there is one more
generation, at least. Father breathes out
four dinner plates and sets down the tines
while Mother sucks in relief
as heat slicks her sugared teeth.

 

 

 

Charlotte PenceCharlotte Pence’s first book of poems Many Small Fires (Black Lawrence Press, 2015) received an INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award from Foreword Reviews. She is also the author of two award-winning poetry chapbooks and the editor of The Poetics of American Song Lyrics. Her poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction have recently been published in Harvard Review, Sewanee Review, Southern Review, and Brevity. Her next poetry collection titled Code will be published by Black Lawrence Press in July. She is the director of the Stokes Center for Creative Writing at the University of South Alabama.

Header photo by Ilya Platonov, courtesy Shutterstock.

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