White crosses: scattered across the highway:
Puncture wounds in God’s vision: driving this state:
Is like uprooting a graveyard: and after the highway has taken what it came for:
The woman cradles her daughter: recovered from the shattered jaw
Of a Pegasus: all teeth and broken wing: as if her body is another syllable
God can no longer pronounce: gripping her tongue: she carves the meat
Into a violin: Sonatas through her sobs for the children
This state has changed: Tell them that in the corners: Of this beauty lurks the bones of my
Mother: and the children she will never meet: Boys who will never walk again
Despite their faith: Tell them that my family lines these mountains, their crosses spitting
Out directions to nowhere.
80 down main street, the vodka
bleeding through both our hands
like water, she flips the car
because the police have reached us
too quickly, and the road beneath
is already calling our names, like a child,
admitting that its known
how to claim our lives, all this time, like it did my sister,
or my brother when his knees shattered
against the dashboard, 23 in Wisconsin,
the pickup truck crashing through him
like a father
and you might ask, so what? Kids die in cars all across America,
but at least Montanans acknowledge it, at least we fashion
a cross from what’s left of our hands and mark where our bodies
when the car flipped, my sister’s body flashing like a vision
before my eyes
I bound my face in a white sheet, let the men carry me back
back from the boy mangled on the stretcher
calling for his mother.
his body, limp
like a prayer we’ve all heard before.
Long down that backroad of throat: was a country, on the other side of language:
I could see Marie’s body there, a slab of meat on the morgue’s metal. Her breasts
Two shut eyes, purpled with knots.
I tried to scream: But my voice had been crushed into music: ‘that’s my city, what have you
Done to her-’: I cried, but the women, and the men who had once been women,
Held me back, all of us watching
As the flames gnawed through every living thing in sight.
Then, I saw it.
At the end of my family’s dying really was a field.
Beside its stream, Mother and I prepared a fire
For our daughter’s body, Marie’s cross clenched between us
Like a chokehold. When Father returned from beating in cars
In the junkyard, his hands shredded to bone, mouth glistening
Like an axe wound, we fashioned a blanket from his hip
And laid it down softly. A white sheet across our eyes
We willed her back to living, our daughter’s spirit
Breaking furiously into flesh. Tracing her rib,
Jutting and large, its sharpness drew blood.
We then touched our gutted eyes, wet with the sunshine,
Wet with Marie’s tears. All of us,
So lost in our joy that we refused to acknowledge
We couldn’t stop shaking
Ian Powell-Palm is a writer, poet, and musician currently living in Belgrade, Montana. His work attempts to interrogate familial trauma, sexual identity, and the resurrection of the dead. You can read more of his poetry on Facebook at ‘Powell-Palm Poetry’.