say the battlefield was just a field
the rain built into a lake the sun
baked into a plane and levitated
skyward say the creatures came
and inhabited clay into city into
system of tunnel and spire and lives
circulating so many lives and you
grew so large your feet sank through
their living rooms their nurseries
and when you couldn’t stand
your own weight a second longer
you froze one foot poised bomblike
over a church so small it has no god
no name but there and it is still
there beneath the shadow of whatever
impends the prayers and praise
died in the congregant’s throats
a century ago tongues curled into sleep
like mice in hollows lined with teeth
but no one bites and no one leaves
the crackle of wonder reverberates
no more and nothing stirs
embers gone cold with waiting
Ledger from a Year of Drought
All those medicine trails I stomped. Half-dead,
each leafless stalk blended with the next. My notes
illegible in a sweat-stained notebook. I carried
a dog-eared copy of Rainforest Remedies and stones
to hurl at strays. I lived in that town like a stowaway,
meaning it would cost me nothing to leave.
Next to nothing to stay. To learn, I presented
my belly, supine. Cynicism coiled tight around
my mind. The curandera pressed her palm right in,
showed me how to massage ovaries, adjust
a uterus through skin. Said American women
are all the same, we deny deny deny
that we are bleeding. No wonder babies vanish
from our tilted wombs. Back then,
I communed with my little pill religiously
each morning. She laughed and led me to its twin.
Like the rest of the jungle, the wild yam had withered
into nothing I could identify. I studied diagrams
of leaves and other women’s yearning. Yearning
that would become my own, in time. Even the driest
stalks sang antidotes against the curandera’s fingers.
She gathered twigs into a sitz bath. The canopy,
like me, was equine in its settling, too long of bone,
stiff jointed. The light collapsed—quick-slow,
quick-slow—and I stewed in dirty, lukewarm water,
doubting. The jungle pulsed with night.
I slashed it with my flashlight. I wanted blood.
I wanted to see cures bloom wild and abundant
as disease. Howlers woke me before sunrise.
Cicadas blurred the morning
with July. My copper clockworked
anemic as the creek. I mumbled prayers for rain
while plotting my escape. Meaning I held no stake.
Back then, I claimed I belonged to no country.
Meaning my passport opened borders
like a skeleton key. I sidestepped the side effects
of my own medicine. My faith was brittle,
easier to break than bend. The rains came late
and all at once. Swept half the town away.
The leaves lolled out like tongues.
Such slick, sick green. They didn't sing
to me. Meaning I wasn’t listening. That year
I packed so light, I was gone already.
Erin Rodoni’s most recent book is And if the Woods Carry You, winner of the 2020 Southern Indiana Review Michael Waters Poetry Prize and finalist for the Northern California Book Award. Her two previous collections are: Body, in Good Light and A Landscape for Loss. Her poems have been published in journals and anthologies such as Blackbird, Poetry Northwest, and Best New Poets. She has won awards from AWP, Ninth Letter, and the Montreal International Poetry Prize. She teaches at the Writing Salon in San Francisco and for CA Poets in the Schools, coaches for Poetry Out Loud, and serves on the board of the Marin Poetry Center.