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Sara Talpos
Finalist : 2010 Poetry Contest



A safe operating space, a ratio we can live with, 350 parts per million of carbon in the atmosphere.

The smoke detector, the car alarm, the ambulance siren all sounding at once. 

            The day you decide to leave your job. The day you decide

to stay.  A scalpel, a resident’s hands fumbling, your son’s cries, screeching seagulls

            over the ocean. The Lord has stretched out his hand over the sea . . . 

small island nations preparing for the onslaught . . . Wail, you people of the island . . .

            for you no longer have a harbor. Two boys casting a fishnet

below gas flares, sulfuric dioxide, methane, acid rain. And despair, my body a fallen

            tree.  So let 350 be the bridge I become lifting my child

when our kayak doesn’t meet the dock. Fighting to get back 350:  hydroponic

            tomatoes, hoop-house lettuce, neighbors planting pawpaw trees. 

My man pushing a wheelbarrow, bending to gather storm-tossed sticks. 350 is more

            bike lanes, more skateboards. More darning of socks.  My daughter

about to be born:  too late for a heparin lock, a heart monitor—only the power

            within me, the pain for which I’ve longed, and her release into

our world gone beyond its limit. Contract. Push. Put a door in the side

            of the ark and make lower, middle, and upper decks. 350,

let it be a boomerang, a ricochet. A beeswax candle on my birthday cake. 

            350, your husband, daughter . . . and you will enter . . .

sister, lover, lifelong partner snugged against the fine ark of your ribs.


Listen to Sara Talpos read "350:"




After Paul Martin 

I lose my balance, gazing at your high skull, your sloped tusks, infinity
            halved. This skeleton is not proof, but pieces

of a theory, what man will do in a new world, boundless and crawling
            with life: simply kill you all because we could. 

We were slight. We were furred and moon-eyed, and you continued
            chewing grasses between molars the size of my clasped hands. 

Now there’s no limit to what these hands might do. 
            I am a girl on tundra, learning to tread watchfully

over bogs and ice. At night, fears cluster, an entire constellation: 
            bullets accelerating through our mossy playground, my lungs

packed with smog, carpenter ants tunneling the bedroom walls. 
            I want to climb the long spine of a pine tree,

hold my arms out to everything perilous and glowing. 
            Minutes from my house, they’ve uncovered tracks.

Eleven thousand years ago, another mammal crossed a river. 
            Some days I walk on brokenness. 

Some days I bow down and touch the grass.


Listen to Sara Talpos read "Mammoth:"



Body of Evidence

Last night, we watched whole forests blaze, we watched a cliff face
           fall away, crushing throngs of nesting seabirds.

No spirit but ours hovering over the waters, sculpting the earth until it’s good. 

Who’s ready to be a god? 

           Boiling water for spaghetti, I think not I. Dropping water bottles
           into the recycling bin, not I. Carrying cloth bags—

as Jonah, asleep in the innermost bowels of a ship.

As a child, I tongued Sunday’s scrap of bread, testing the edges
           until they gave way, dissolved into a sour aftertaste.

Wind ruined Job’s children, the house collapsing in on them. 

His own body festered, swathed in scabs and worms. 
           The skin, always

a merciless frontier. Take my hand, I’m sinking. 

Job cries out for an answer, receives questions: Where were you
           when I laid the earth’s foundation? Have you ever

given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place? 

I’m not asking to be saved. 
           Only to know our bodies side by side

as grasses the godforsaken wind drives through.


Listen to Sara Talpos read "Body of Evidence:"



Sara Talpos’ poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Cave Wall, Crab Orchard Review, Poet Lore, Shenandoah, and The American Poetry Journal, among others. She teaches at the University of Michigan and also volunteers at the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor.
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