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.
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.