The man we sought wasn’t
home that day. Fire came
through the roof—they
changed tile for cement
and prayed. In our night vision,
white was warmth, bright
body count took to the air.
The desired effect
ricocheted off the taut
firmament, the tide slid
out again. At the podium
the tone was sanguine.
SYMPTOMS OF PREY
The night she never came back:
it stays this way.
Treat ourselves to grief.
Take my last words back.
It’s funny how the day keeps.
We don’t make wishes. We take our tea. Anyway,
I never knew where to put my hands
when she laughed.
We can only guess at these events: if the gun
came through the door first, who chased whom
in the parking lot. How much was held in
that gesture: one hand to her head, one
switching the lamp off. We know how the body
smoked after. How the blood left her like a cloud.
Stiff shadow of a streetlamp.
Chain link, spent match, loose brick.
Red light rolls over. Ants go about being ants.
To open your chest and put you back.
How does it end this way? Wound scents
the water and the sharks come. I have been flesh
hungry and at sea. I have come down
kicking. The way sweet sinks
to the bottom. That last draw.
ALWAYS BRING FLOWERS
Which is the way this goes again?
Lock step with me, one-two-three,
bound in a box, taped to the floor.
Draw my next step in chalk.
Every atom of me says faster,
giddy up up up, skull-fractured
my skinny hope on the popcorn ceiling,
eyes full of snow.
Before we could beautify our death
it was a white noise in my head, underwater-
red. The bullet holes in the walls
were stars and stars.
I’ve been unrolling to a thin flat line, reaching
long for an other-side. Deliver me
from the hothouse when it’s over.
Carry the first fistful of earth.
STILL LIFE WITH CAPERNICUS & HYPNOPHOBIA
I lose my footing and step onto the air
I reach for you It is too late for that.
Consider Alice in her blue
dress. Then Alice is gone. A coyote
baying in the fields. It’s late and there’s no one here
to wake. Sleep is a threat
and nothing’s promised after but an ending
that’s disheartening for all that’s left
I’ve given up
on sense, except the patterns
of the morning the way you sigh and shield
your eyes from light. I, too, have feared
the sun in its indifference its relentless
sequence its cause and its effect. This terror
is a lesson in mediocrity. All I am
in the end is a trivia, a story,
a series of events— my body
a collection of particles turning
in space. No place in me is worse
or better than any place else.
Camille Rankine is the author of Slow Dance with Trip Wire, selected by Cornelius Eady for the Poetry Society of America’s 2010 New York Chapbook Fellowship. The recipient of a 2010 “Discovery”/Boston Review Poetry Prize, her poetry has appeared in numerous journals including American Poet, Boston Review, Denver Quarterly, DIAGRAM, and Indiana Review. She is Assistant Director of the Graduate Program in Creative Writing at Manhattanville University and lives in New York City.