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Lee Roscoe & Kevin Heaton

9/11/01 Did They Know How They Died, the Dead?

At the reservoir, the light flees across the water, defining motion.
(conserved was the water from the rivers of indians,
drowning the farming town last)
Sorry sore dusk comes down over the first blood of fall.
Scattering stars assemble like soldiers behind the day.

We stand in the sun, older than we appeared within.
The shadows lengthen: the lovers create a Bali dance,
a dragonfly.
With the Lakota warrior,
We stand in the sun, older than we appeared under the tent.

The shadow on the wetu is a compass,
at the four quarters
the saplings are met by a circle within a square.

Where the sun sets
I ask,
Did they know how they died, the dead?

When Big Foot went down on the lilac snowdrifts, frozen solid
His hands to the heavens imploring at wounded knee,
Or Unci, grandmother, stiffened at the kitchen seat
Because the government denied her propane for her heat–
Coffee steaming at their death, like the spirit rising in the vapor bath
Did they know how they died, the dead?
Did they know why they died, the dead?

The wind of the clouds pours through me, down to the ground my body a channel. I am the lord and lightning is my hand, pointing accusation at man. I am the thunderbird.
The shadows of the animals circling slowly watch me (the coyote, the wolf, the owl, and bear are there)
The sky slides through me and my open hands dowse the lightning to the ground
I destroy
They who destroyed the land.

Did they know how they died, the dead?
Whose box of metal wings strafed the empire’s tallest towers
whence a flower of flame rebelled from steel?
And down went the highways of windows,
like the grand canyon disintegrating downward
in Niagras of shatterings, leaving the talus of sharpened bones and glass
like a glacier a thousand feet high, grinding the granite to sand
(and geometry was re-formed)

And the world we have angered: did they know how they died, the dead?
And why they passed.
When the shredded papers, flamed and cindered drafts of them
drifted against the tar where no grass is?

And once this was paradise where even the Dutch played
with the Indians,
deer amongst copses, lapsing and sipping;
birds clustered like grapes and plums, passenger pigeons;
Rivulets running the currency of fish
Manhattan, before the trade of shells.

Do they know how they died, the dead?
I am the thunderbird,
Who with the shadow of death wing-ed above them
in innocence received
the drop
Down the elevator shaft of dark, done
before they named the bomb
Out like the shhh and flash of flame at a matches end
Eyes black with fear and brains blanched with question,
breathless and stopped

Did they know in Iraq, did they know
In the Mayan footholds where the tropic orchids clasp
odorific petals, satined in strange, oiled sifts of opalescence?
Did they know in the highhold cornfields
The strongholds of sun-whistling eagles
where the rain-eaten rock breathes ageless dust?
Did they know when our death squads tortured their brief flesh, and fired
Their thatch;
They knew who their killers were.

August 6, Hiroshima at 69

Rainbow at 6:09 PM
Rainbow, earth renewed
A glad cleansing
Small pine trees’ tips are silver, glass;
light and liquid needles shift.
The drops turn blue and red, Christmas.

The light lingers on the oak leaves
As if no such thing as light has been
Two leaves are
Translucent green,
each birthing a solitary star,
Nova-bright cabochons
Dripping down again and again to ground.

The birds linger in the sweetening
amazed; they barely chip.

A breeze brilliants the drops, as if a hand flicks facets of a ring

A double rainbow, clear in all the prism colors
Redounds upon a cleansed sky.

Rain rejoices behind
A glad cleanness resounds upon the earth

The time and place is new

And never was.

Lee Roscoe is a freelance journalist, published often in the Cape Cod Times, Barnstable Patriot, (including columnist: Poetropes); also inSierrra, Natural History, Oceanus online, New York Conservationist, etc. Woods Hole Ocean Science Journalism Fellow, 2012. His plays have been seen at the Living Theatre, NYC, Provincetown Theatre, Great Plains Theatre Conference, Boston Playwrights Theater. He is a finalist in the Yale Drama Series, David Hare judging, and his work has been praised by Howard Zinn, Michael Kahn, Judith Malina.

The Moonshiner’s Prayer

Lord, curse all G-men.

Curse all still-pluckin’ muckrakers.

Smite that mangy swamp fox neck-wringin’ peahens in my wattle pen.

There’s mildew pissin’ in the yeast, wettin’ down my schnapps.

Blind malt weevils porkin’ in the hops.

I’m stuck with a late autumn rose; one lustrum long in the thorn.

My dentures are bald.

I pine for mashier pot gosh and more harvest moonshizzle.

I pine for buxomer hooch and dippier sot swiggle.

Lord, I’ll whirl like a whiz-jenny scorched to a turpentine cat on a tongue
and groove barstool.

I’ll dance like a spirit with rattlers at the First Pentecostal snake church.

O Spiritus Fermenti who changed stump water to spumante.

O greater-than-Gatsby grape squeezer sautéing Caesar’s ghost:

alfa all my roosters with Eggland’s Best omegas,

pelt me this day with cornbread and leavened whiskey dodgers,

withdraw thy copper stopper from my menopausal drip line—

mirth this empty fruit jar with uncorked latter rain.

(Previously published in Guernica)

Kevin Heaton is originally from Kansas and Oklahoma, and now lives and writes in South Carolina. His work has appeared in a number of publications including: Guernica, Raleigh Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Vinyl Poetry, The Adroit Journal, and The Monarch Review. He is a Best of the Net, Best New Poets, and three-time Pushcart Prize nominee.

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