The business man will sign his name
a certain number of times in his long,
dry-cleaned life. $500 pens in his breast
pocket. How many signatures?
Others take his measure.
Manzanita branches painted fire engine red,
grow indecisively, split and spread like antlers.
A deer has nicked toothmarks in rows up the trunk,
marking days like a prisoner.
He is wealthy in pens. And so, memo
after autograph after executive order, he signs.
Immigrants and Chief of Staff, gone. With each white paper,
lives turn like branches reaching for escape. True stories end—
refugee children, vets and cancer patients. Endangered species,
flung from a rigged casino roulette wheel.
I’m entranced by how dropping pine needles
catch on manzanita branches, hanging
like wisps of child’s hair below the teal shell leaves
and little apples. Like blonde fringe on a jacket
before repeated washings. Like strange fruit I can’t unsee.
The business man’s body count,
another unknown number, tethered to the whip lines
and fang letters in the signature of a man
in a clean room, commanding a pen,
cameras chirping, never catching
the countdowns in progress.
The deer nibbles the manzanita bark
every day she passes this way, never girdling
the trunk, browsing, enough for all. Her marking
stops the day the mountain lion finds
Wren Tuatha is editor of Califragile. Her poetry has appeared in The Cafe Review, Canary, Coachella Review, Arsenic Lobster, Pirene’s Fountain, Lavender Review, and others. Wren and her partner, author/activist C.T. Lawrence Butler, herd skeptical goats on a mountain in California.
The Nazis are back in town.
No, I know. They never, ever left.
The things I never said, I said them like a man.
Like a man I insist I never said those things.
And afterwards I will assert I never said the second thing,
layer on layer of vow, disavowal. And what I believe,
you shall believe; there is only one thought and it is me.
My smell wipes across the thought of him. Crying in a pin stripe business suit. There was an accident. Perfect bodies lose perfection like melting ice. Crowns of thorns are passed out, metal trinkets to place in private. Kiss the blood rolling down.
I keep having this dream where
the white man isn’t angry
the black man entered
the white house.
There is a cabin by the bouldered beaches
of Northern California,
where the pines practically toe the foam.
This is where he’ll go, and off will come
his tailored suits,
his lacquered shoes,
his streak of blood-red tie.
She’s been sitting in the passenger seat of my car for a week.
She won’t wear her seatbelt and she won’t come in at night.
We are the easy targets
to the men who hide behind
the thin veil of life
the men in Washington
who pretend that they care.
It’s nice to scream
“This is what democracy looks like”
With a hundred people you’ve never met before.
Of course we knew what was at stake.
We all had that pill between our teeth
the gelatin cap
would not burst
no matter how hard we bit down