Nance Van Winckel
Out of marsh out of the bronchial
tree limbs out of low clouds
we grow up to be President, we emerge
as nurses or green grocers or red lips
waiting for a cigarette. From the lagoon
beside the postcard meadow under elk-
antlered skies we are raised to a flame
in a streetlight. Arterial dust mites.
A gnat’s death banged out by the New York Times.
From the Why-hast-thou
and the We’ll-be-back-soon, through
siren wail and bird call
we step up with our sticks
and stigmatas, our forged
documents. We mature
into the foxtrot and cha-cha-cha.
Past the Dead End and Deaf Child signs
and out of the valley’s huge cowbells
we evolve as hammers chisels
sprung traps. We ring up the Colonels of Parks
who call friends who’ve just dredged
the Erie Canal and are en route
to zip open Panama but can meet us
for a moment with our paper sacks
and pitchforks. They accept our potatoes.
From woodlands. From bobcat bellies. Over
downed fences. Out of ashes and owl eyes shining
we are passed on with a B-
by Mr. and Mrs. God in plaid kilts.
The unhinged eye of the compass spins
and we migrate: first fern, first night’s first dream the first fathers
suffered: the flower expelling its seed.
We step over the wires, and still keeping taut
the thread of a kindly folksong, we arrive
at an age to shoot the last crows
behind the slumped barn. We’re the Presidents
the Colonels have called
and our voices shouting What? What? What?
fill the forest of felled trees.