Missing a Verse Didn’t matter that you didn’t know all the lyrics to Paul Simon’s The Boxer. You knew they would save you as you slipped down the hill from wherever you shouldn’t have been back to your dorm in the dark. Offkey, you assured those faithful words, getting some flung pulse in the stanzas, then lathering it loud as snow left its solitude in slabs. It was always winter, compound cold, one dying sky. Anything could happen on your way home. The billions of shadows had details, so you opened your mouth. The night must be sung. No sicko could catch you while you were constellating the sequence, feeding the black such a resonant effort. (first published in Spry Literary Journal)
Algae Farm In the valley, behind long roads to the farms, three men check a vast tank using wits of borrowed scientists. No plow or field. Just tender uni-cellular seaweed. In the lot, a truck turned round under the range of pine boughs and laconic mountains holds out its bed of perfumed West Slope peaches. Liquid sweet and soft and almost too much weeping richness. The men inside explain the total need is an acre foot of dead water constantly renewed for a kingdom of edible algae. In a glass jar on the table, a sour green-lustered sample. A swamp in a bottle. One man in slacks gestures by shaking the liquid repeatedly. One thousand bugs he says. He swirls them awhile and smiles. The ranch runs parallel to a patchwork of lavender and barbed wire that latches back dangers. Under the tent, beside crumpled hills, I listen to how they’ll disgorge moisture to dry powder, start the tank again. The man in tan cap nearly chortles with loot calculations. The tank glows humid. I step outside, decide to buy another peach. (first published in Spiral Orb)
Slickensides and Fault Planes For Ashlynne Mike Spring arrives with its bewilderment, an explosive sort of pleading. I live in the desert and even here my thoughts are sometimes violent. In the same wind time—Shiprock, New Mexico on the Navajo Nation. Tsé Bit' A'í which means “rock with wings.” In order to exist I’ve been sleeping more darkly, night lunging up at me. On my right side, my eyes distant. All I can see is a blackening desolate edge. Almost every night I am abducted. I enter an unguarded reservation of terrors. The peak of Shiprock stands 7,178 feet above sea level, solidified from old ridges of pressure. My phone convulses, sculpting six squeals through the room. The sounds furl into my body: An 11-year-old missing in Shiprock. I turn, still designing harsh stories. Lured forward, I’m never alone. An Amber Alert issued at 2:27 AM Tuesday. The family is holding their palms open to sorrow. The tribe is holding their breath. Spring brings its brutal dust. I roll over, dead- asleep, captive. My bounty of nightmares began at 11 and continues for decades. The maiden sky is nearly an asterisk of light. Shiprock juts with its points from a plain. They found her on the far side of a desert hilltop. Her body, on Tuesday, in Shiprock. We won’t talk of New Mexico as a land of enchantment. Everyone says how heroic the light. Light as shelter, as mantle. I moved here to salvage all my visible breaks, to mix them with blood, with my flesh. Shiprock is a fortress: eroded, fractured. It is all that has been revealed. That night: the quick turn of my back against the sheets, the topography of knees tucked to chest. I’ve always blamed the dark for my visions, this interrogation of dimension. I survive within it. Ashlynne entered a stranger’s maroon van and the roads split again, crusty. He led her off to the stripped skin of blue hours, into the deserted distance to ache and weigh shadows. Reports say the stranger hit her twice in the head with a tire iron. Most mornings I feel like I’ll never get up, I’m so bruised from the nothing on nothing. They found her six miles from the pinnacle. The sky outside my bedroom window fringes with insolent crows, their squarish wings. My sweaty body, another knee bent. All these mysteries. On a good night, no grinding of teeth. The news reporters repeated “as they drove away in the van, Ashlynne was waving.” With wings she now goes all of the nights not alone. (first published in Cutthroat)
Lauren Camp is the author of three books, most recently One Hundred Hungers, winner of the Dorset Prize (Tupelo Press, 2016). Her poems appear in New England Review, Poetry International, Slice, Linebreak, Beloit Poetry Journal and elsewhere. She is a Black Earth Institute Fellow and the producer/host of Santa Fe Public Radio’s “Audio Saucepan,” which interweaves global music with contemporary poetry.