Linda McCloud

i kneel to offer homage at the stone altar
nesting place of a gargoyle called god
stooped my hands in prayer for fear of
strange creature
pray lean on the stone for mercy
from being human
the brown fly so tiny i had not noticed
felt a light on my skin
a sting on the hand
i did not believe the doctor
death from a brown fly
he said you will die now
i cannot die i do not believe
i feel fine it is only a small welt
it does not even itch
i do not believe that death is carried
by a brown fly
or mercy by stone gargoyles

this porch is built on a swamp
they filled in the land and put up
stucco houses for the people
they made an alley out of the stream bed
and when it rains hard the water still
rushes into the alley in its old way
sometimes holes suddenly appear in the lawns
big ones from rotted tree roots or where
there were gaps left by the fill
people trim the lawns
but the air is so foul
i wonder when the pilgrims come through
looking for shrines what they will think

hatred grows especially well here
dry soil produces poppies a few grasses
but hatred thrives with or without the light
we have some really fine examples of it
there will be a house tour of shrines in the fall
this one will be on it
charred in and out black
[no break]
the people the same
their pile of ammunition caught fire
during a gun battle
cinders it’s on the tour
as a reminder of how they died together
six charred human skeletons that’s why we
make the pilgrimage
a sort of salvage day of what’s to come
empathy is buried somewhere under
the wreckage

it’s important on a pilgrimage not
to drink the water
the farmer’s face is permanently red
he has shown us the pigs chickens rabbits
milkcows horses geese goslings corn barley
wild watercress and ruts in the road
shown us the farmer’s wife he has shown us everything
and still we stand around silent not knowing what
to do about it there is nothing to buy and bring
back to the city there is the city not waiting for us
the farmer who must get back to his chores
we are not even certain whey we came
be careful what you taste you are not supposed
to see too much or hear old voices

all search begins at the fountain
we set out with packs and picks
digging around in circles
the fine spray brushing our cheeks
begins here like a group hike at the fountain
even without a particular destination
beginning only
hoping by some accident to unearth
the human city