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Two poems by Erica Abbott

What If We Lost the Night Sky?

Ran our hands through the empty-static evening

and waited for a frequency where the air was clear.

Stood by while they cut down every vein-vaulted

tree until the world’s arterial road bled out. Lost

our footing as the skies became big as Montana,

except there was no lack of structures scraping

the clouds. Spare me the slogans and platitudes

as once sparse planes twist into playgrounds

for those who board the golden sun in their back

pocket. Watch as they pollute the once-brilliant

backbone of the universe with their artificial light.

What happens when there is no longer obsidian

smoothness to absorb all the white-hot bad? No

twinkling stars to reflect what good remains? Believe

me when I say I do not fear folding sheets of coal-

colored construction paper across the cosmos

and stabbing pinholes into pinwheels

until this factory-powered fire shines through.

Just let them try to take this burning

intensity from us. For we will imbue our fingertips

with this power and hide every last knife

and axe from their billboard-sized eye, bulldoze-

happy hand. Believe me, had I known it would end

this way, I would have woken up for every sunrise

before they turned hazy and turned my back

to the grass until the tumbling geode of the Milky Way

pummeled the universe to bits of indifference.

Crimson King

The crimson king in the backyard always bleeds

blush, no matter the season. No matter the time

of month, she bleeds. The stoop soaks up the carnage

of pigment, each one painting our feet in a different shade

of red. Look how the water-colored maroon spills

across the sidewalk and we are dry, open-mouthed

and waiting for the leave to come. Do you know

how to love this? The flesh barks and we bite

into each other’s crimson skin—gesturing a bruise

through the crosswinds. How the purple stains

our teeth. I am waiting for the limbs to cry out,

to sag under the pressure of a bird’s twiggy feet—

unspooling its nest into abandoned string. Is this your idea

of home? The power lines hold us up, up, and away

our bodies go toward the crown of the sky. Hives

of memory buzzing through our brains. Remember

the milk and honey? How they tasted on your hands,

each finger laced into the fertile soil ready to take root.

We take and take until what remains are lopsided utility

poles and foggy skies—exhale onto the mirror to warn me

of the fall. Does timber not trill the way it used to?

The axe leans against the back door and we’re all too eager

to open it and extend our hands.

Erica Abbott (she/her) is a Philadelphia-based poet and writer whose work has previously appeared or is forthcoming in Midway Journal, Serotonin, FERAL, Anti-Heroin Chic, and other journals. She is the author of Self-Portrait as a Sinking Ship (Toho, 2020), her debut poetry chapbook. She volunteers for Button Poetry and Mad Poets Society. Follow her on Instagram @poetry_erica and on Twitter @erica_abbott.

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