Hunger: A Madrigal
in the shallows so many starving eyes,
hunger is a pain we cannot measure,
wrapped in language making us feel better.
we calm ourselves, fill empty plates with lies,
normalizing famine into ‘pressure,’
all while the shallows teem with starving eyes.
hunger is a pain we cannot measure
even as the ghosts of dying children rise;
we chew words: ‘insecure’ or ‘barrier,’
sinful excess masked by wasted gesture,
and in the shallows still the starving eyes.
hunger is a pain we cannot measure;
still we hide—language making us feel better.
Female Exogamy: A Pantoum
On the muddy Lech River, Bell Beaker people
bone shard and grave goods thousands of years old,
fingers folded over axes, copper rings, pearl pins–
is it true that they gave their daughters away?
Bone shard and grave goods thousands of years old,
only wives were included, foreign women brought in.
Is it true that they gave their daughters away?
DNA in dispersion, keeping their sons close,
their wives were included, foreigh women brought in
for bride price, alliance, and strong bloodlines.
DNA in dispersion, keeping their sons close
and their wealth closer, especially if it meant
bride price, alliance, and strong bloodlines,
it was all worth it. Sons signaled survival,
kept their wealth closer, even if it meant–
even if it meant—they gave their daughters away.
Fire: A Villanelle
We bless the ones who bring us fire
and water old enough to burn,
showing the merit of desire.
The old ones know what blood requires,
matchstick souls with so much to learn
from blessed hands that bring us fire.
Like wooden dolls these bodies wired;
how hard we seek and want and churn
for one rare passage through desire.
Tinder, flint, and lost flesh aspire,
but lack the wisdom to discern
without the ones who bring us fire.
What body seeks—something higher,
surrender to the wheel’s great turn,
how far we’ll go to know desire.
Old ones whisper, the telling choir
that only souls can truly learn,
so bless the ones who bring us fire,
Pantoum for Missing Women
Daughter, mother, niece, and auntie,
sister, I can hear you singing,
spirits rising from the roadside,
ghostdance trembling earth and air.
Sister, I can hear you singing
through empty plates, heartbeat drums,
ghostdance trembling earth and air.
We keep the fire to guide you home
through empty plates, heartbeat drums.
When the world would let you vanish,
we keep the fire to guide you home–
sister, you do not sing alone.
“The National Crime Information Center reports that, in 2016, there were 5,712 reports of missing American Indian and Alaska Native women and girls, though the US Department of Justice’s federal missing persons database, NamUs, only logged 116 cases.i,ii The Center for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that murder is the third-leading cause of death among American Indian and Alaska Native women and that rates of violence on reservations can be up to ten times higher than the national average. However, no research has been done on rates of such violence among American Indian and Alaska Native women living in urban areas despite the fact that approximately 71% of American Indian and Alaska Natives live in urban areas.v rural areas. Though awareness of the crisis is growing, data on the realities of this violence is scarce.”– Urban Indian Health Report 2018
Mary Carroll-Hackett is the author of eight collections of poetry: The Real Politics of Lipstick, Animal Soul, If We Could Know Our Bones, The Night I Heard Everything, Trailer Park Oracle, A Little Blood, A Little Rain, and Death for Beginners, released from Kelsey Books in October 2017. Her newest chapbook, (Un)Hinged, was just released Spring 2019. Mary teaches in the Creative Writing programs at Longwood University and with the low-residency MFA faculty at West Virginia Wesleyan. Mary is currently at work on a novel.
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