DOG-WALKING IN THE SHADOW OF PYONGYANG · DEVON BALWIT
Even in the shadow of disaster, Devon Balwit finds poetry everywhere – from contemplating the earth’s mild obliquity that gives us seasons to reading a bumper sticker exhorting Make Portland Holy. Her voice is fresh and resonant whether she speaks as a lustful background figure (I thrum to louche…) in Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby or ponders How loudly/must disappointment teakettle before you/clap hands to ears and cringe? And in this new volume, she delights us, poem after poem, with her mastery of the unexpected metaphor (the tumor presses you close/ as a tango dancer) and her knack for combining the earthy with the sublime. — Joan Roberta Ryan, author of Dark Ladies & Other Avatars
|Dimensions||6.5 × 6.5 × .25 in|
Demeter of the Ex-Urb
No blade, but a bract, rasped edges
ranged towards danger, tip observant,
mistress of spathe, spikelet, glume
and peduncle, I stand my ground,
Demeter of the ex-urb, goddess
of the small plot, my fool, a hummingbird,
my heckler, a crow, croaking
from shadows, my green fuse
stutter-stepping – paling
to near-guttering, barbarian weeds
creeping – before re-flaring, fierce
in a campaign of ripped roots,
me flailing the blunt trowel,
blinded by brow-sweat.
(after Cristina Troufa’s Espada)
the earth’s mild obliquity that gives us seasons:
less and we’d lose our liquid water, more
and we’d swing yearly between extremes, boiling
and freezing by halves. Even our charmed axis
varies by degrees – ice ages – but always,
so far, we return to habitable. Will we always?
No telling. Wonder it happened at all.
How many planets whirl in the Goldilocks band
of distant stars, that sweet spot of liquid water?
Are we alone conscious and self-absorbed,
hashing everything in our grandiosity?
This planet is really on the verge of destruction
all the time, an astronomer marvels. All
the time! And we so petty, we tilted freaks of nature.
DOG-WALKING IN THE SHADOW OF PYONGYANG
We flip a coin over who walks
the dog, not tired, but edgy,
for the loser glances covertly
upward, listening for whistles,
siren-ready, side-eyeing each lot
for shelter. Somewhere in Pyongyang,
a finger hovers over a button, a head
cocks to catch the command
that will release the unmaker of worlds,
mine. The button-pusher is loyal,
me, reduced to caricature, and soon
to ash, all of us, web-stuck
in history. As with solar flares,
the big quake I’m told is coming,
or closer still, the millions arriving
next month to eclipse-gawk, my way
to cope is to deny, acting as if
and going about my business.
The Great Leader may render all
my insomniac panic moot –
aging, health-care, the planet,
my kids, my craft – a flame-out
to trace elements in an open crater.
About the Author
When not teaching, Devon Balwit chases chickens in Portland, Oregon, USA. Her poems and reviews can be found in The Worcester Review, The Cincinnati Review, Tampa Review, Barrow Street, Tar River Poetry, Sugar House Review, Rattle, Bellingham Review, and Grist among others. Nixes Mate published her book, We are Procession, Seismograph in 2017.
Copyright © 2021 Devon Balwit
Cover design by d’Entremont
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