Vanessa Zimmer-Powell

Last Moments Before Stone

After viewing, Sarcophagus Depicting a Battle between Soldiers and Amazons  (140–170 AD), marble,        Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

My sandals know the shore of Propontis Sea,

become hard with the gift of its’ salt,

make ready my feet, my mind, for war.

 

I pace the lip of this sea,

look towards the marble island

where Roman soldiers patrol quarry slaves.

 

My horse feels my heat, my thighs,

the shift of my hips,

my laughter,

as I think of Romans becoming small

below their monuments.

 

At night we take off our helmets,

unburden our hair,

rest the two-bladed ax between our bosoms.

 

We conceive battle in our sleep

just as we birth daughters

and give away sons.

 

On the night of the great moon,

I dream that my body is stone,

that I live without breath, trapped

underneath the feet of war horses.

 

In the morning, I crush red poppies,

release them upon Roman waters.

My voice is the cry of lions.

 

Tomorrow I will raise my crescent shield,

plunge my spear into their commander.

The truth of his lies will be carved

into marble sarcophagus,

 

a monument to his bravery,

and to his fear of the women from the East.

 

Mosquito Net Photos

            

            After viewing Dinh Q. Le’s installation, “Crossing The Farther Shore.”

           *Lines in italics are from the back of a Dinh Q. Le installation photo of a Vietnam war                   survivor

 In the first two days,

 

I drowned in someone else’s photos.

 

We saw many boats, some close and some far. 

 

I sank into the deep that exists in the mind.

 

Often we called for help, but none responded.

 

The yellow nets that catch and filter memory—

 

I am convinced that most of these ships noticed us, 

 

the ocean of us,

 

but were unwilling.

 

Now I search in the mist for light,

 

to take on the responsibility of rescuing us,

 

like the thickest of sea Sargassum, as it floats, survives.

 

Dinner at Shiloh

 

That April, the wild pigs smelled war,

found their dinner under peach blossoms,

ate, and ate, and ate

the carcasses of men.

 

The taste of Rebel, same as Union—

perhaps, a little less fat, fed on rations of hunger.

 

The sound of licking, grunting, rooting;

the tearing of bones, the movement of mud—

and oh so quietly, Tennessee River,

her water flowing South, always escaping,

never escaping this blood.

 

The blossoms kept raining down their pink,

their white.

 

The pigs ate, and ate, and ate.

The church, named for peace,

was a witness to this scene—

how her logs ached, her door creaked open.

 

She was taken by boots, breathed gunpowder,

her thighs were shocked with bullets.

 

When the last piece of meat

was sucked out of the bodies,

the pigs found a place to rest

near the water, near the trees un-torn

by bullets.

 

They slept with filthy bodies in a bed

of yellow, Johnny Jump-Ups,

no worries for freedom, God, or tomorrow.

______________________________________________________________

Vanessa Zimmer-Powell was the winner of a Rick Steve’s Haiku Award, and was a poetry award winner at the 2013 Austin International Poetry Fest. Her work has been published in local and national poetry anthologies and journals. In 2015 her work was accepted for publication in the Avocet Weekly, the Avocet JournalBorderlands: Texas Poetry ReviewEkphrasis, the Houston Nature Anthology, and the Texas Poetry Calendar.

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Since 2000, The Copperfield Review has been a leading market for historical fiction. Copperfield was named one of the top sites for new writers by Writer's Digest and it is the winner of the Books and Authors Award for Literary Excellence. We publish short historical fiction as well as history-based nonfiction, poetry, reviews, and interviews.
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