Lisa Mednick Powell

poetry Blast July 1 2011

Because of (or in spite of) the fires raging around here, in canyons and on ridges--- and in the too-close-for-comfort vicinity of decades-old radioactive waste from Los Alamos...I have been thinking about what survives conflagrations of various sorts. We can see the fire from our yard at night. The fire has also encroached on thousands of acres of Santa Clara Pueblo land and the Pueblo governor has declared a state of emergency. Anyway, the first poem features a tenacious critter that, according to the poem, has bones and teeth that reach back through the ages to ancient fires and wars. The second poem is for what survives invisibly--as in social justice surviving all the blows against it...and maybe it is for Independence Day as well. Happy Fourth and please be careful with them fireworks... The Oldest Living Thing in L.A. By Larry Levis At Wilshire & Santa Monica I saw an opossum Trying to cross the street. It was late, the street Was brightly lit, the opossum would take A few steps forward, then back away from the breath Of moving traffic. People coming out of the bars Would approach, as if to help it somehow. It would lift its black lips & show them The reddened gums, the long rows of incisors, Teeth that went all the way back beyond The flames of Troy & Carthage, beyond sheep Grazing rock-strewn hills, fragments of ruins In the grass at San Vitale. It would back away Delicately & smoothly, stepping carefully As it always had. It could mangle someone’s hand In twenty seconds. Mangle it for good. It could Sever it completely from the wrist in forty. There was nothing to be done for it. Someone Or other probably called the LAPD, who then Called Animal Control, who woke a driver, who Then dressed in mailed gloves, the kind of thing Small knights once wore into battle, who gathered Together his pole with a noose on the end, A light steel net to snare it with, someone who hoped The thing would have vanished by the time he got there. Poem for South African Women by June Jordan (from about 1980) Our own shadows disappear as the feet of thousands by the tens of thousands pound the fallow land into new dust that rising like a marvelous pollen will be fertile even as the first woman whispering imagination to the trees around her made for righteous fruit from such deliberate defense of life as no other still will claim inferior to any other safety in the world The whispers too they intimate to the inmost ear of every spirit now aroused they carousing in ferocious affirmation of all peaceable and loving amplitude sound a certainly unbounded heat from a baptismal smoke where yes there will be fire And the babies cease alarm as mothers raising arms and heart high as the stars so far unseen nevertheless hurl into the universe a moving force irreversible as light years traveling to the open eye And who will join this standing up and the ones who stood without sweet company will sing and sing back into the mountains and if necessary even under the sea we are the ones we have been waiting for