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,
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,
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
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 Journal, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Ekphrasis, the Houston Nature Anthology, and the Texas Poetry Calendar.