We Bury Our Tongues and Our Tentpoles

Erin Slaughter

 

 

We Bury Our Tongues and Our Tentpoles

Erin Slaughter

N.B.: We recommend mobile viewing in landscape.

There are 36 carved boulders in Dogtown,
Massachusetts, an abandoned settlement

of platitudes and hounds. Not here. Only deer
carcasses, slabs of highway graffiti.

A hiving in the engine. Let me begin again.

This body is a ghost-making factory
and they scatter here like anywhere.

Like hungry ants on tile. The Midwest
spanning America like a kidney
plopped on a tray table. A thankful thing,

grotesque. And graying
before your eyes. Oh I have been

in emptier places than this and I know
by now the familiar prescriptions.

If sunflower seeds: pickle-salted.
If desperation: the river.

Cloud-bound birdshadow a splatter
of language translated from the tongue

and what it cannot ever know:
obsidian, heartwrench, the waxy line

of a face in sleep.
White-glazed flatlands suggesting any place

that could hold you could keep you.

If winter: an envelope for stillness.
If light: a refusal.

Will I one day swoon for the strange maw
of the grain silo and the milk-

starved sky? Could it be, as C says, I am sifting
the cedars for permission

to be happy? Let me begin: In the heart

of my desk is a letter I’ll never send
or regret, but I am interested now only in devotion

to a sadness that is not noble or monstrous

but speaks in wings, all they cannot accomplish
by beauty alone.

 

Erin Slaughter’s We Bury Our Tongues and Our Tentpoles appears in Flock 21.

There are 36 carved boulders in Dogtown,
Massachusetts, an abandoned settlement

of platitudes and hounds. Not here. Only deer
carcasses, slabs of highway graffiti.

A hiving in the engine. Let me begin again.

This body is a ghost-making factory
and they scatter here like anywhere.

Like hungry ants on tile. The Midwest
spanning America like a kidney
plopped on a tray table. A thankful thing,

grotesque. And graying
before your eyes. Oh I have been

in emptier places than this and I know
by now the familiar prescriptions.

If sunflower seeds: pickle-salted.
If desperation: the river.

Cloud-bound birdshadow a splatter
of language translated from the tongue

and what it cannot ever know:
obsidian, heartwrench, the waxy line

of a face in sleep.
White-glazed flatlands suggesting any place

that could hold you could keep you.

If winter: an envelope for stillness.
If light: a refusal.

Will I one day swoon for the strange maw
of the grain silo and the milk-

starved sky? Could it be, as C says, I am sifting
the cedars for permission

to be happy? Let me begin: In the heart

of my desk is a letter I’ll never send
or regret, but I am interested now only in devotion

to a sadness that is not noble or monstrous

but speaks in wings, all they cannot accomplish
by beauty alone.


Erin Slaughter’s
We Bury Our Tongues and Our Tentpoles appears in Flock 21.

Erin Slaughter is editor and co-founder of literary journal The Hunger, and the author of two poetry chapbooks: GIRLFIRE (dancing girl press, 2018) and Elegy for the Body (Slash Pine Press, 2017). You can find her writing in Prairie Schooner, Passages North, F(r)iction, Cosmonauts Avenue, and elsewhere. Originally from north Texas, she is pursuing a PhD in Creative Writing at Florida State University. Her first full-length poetry collection is forthcoming from New Rivers Press in 2019.