Arlice W. Davenport
The genome tilts on its axis, spilling memes of shame,
mutation and death, tattooed on plasma walls.
Coronavirus latches onto a lowly cell, clamps down,
spews pellets of bubonic plague as fleas flee disaster.
1666. Eyam Village barricades its boundaries: No going in.
No going out. The population dies like convulsing rats,
bodies stacked high in the street: cords of firewood. No one dares
light the flame. Pestilence obeys the border’s blockade, contained
behind thick, golden stones. Tiny cottages mutate to infirmaries.
Judgment seeps through window panes. Mercy aligns with death.
We build no blockades; boundaries shift in the wind. Virus obeys
no one’s laws, vandalizes the body, sets fire to the human touch.
Eyam beams prettiness now. Neat, manicured lawns, well-swept streets,
no trace of plague save on the village entry sign. Tourists flock like fleas,
soaking up history’s survival, sobering on its showcase of blight.
Who deserves to die from nature’s aberrations? Who goes in, who out?
The Fiery Wound
Your heart shatters at the news
like a plate of china
a grungy floor.
Pieces scatter like spiders,
impossible to retrieve,
impossible to rebuild,
impossible to contemplate.
Your heart is bruised, bleeding
drops of unrequited trust.
The viscera of your body
tighten like a vice. You could slide
your head into it, if you choose,
but what would be the use? Trust flees
like deer bounding in a forest.
You are too broken to give chase.
Yet the heart yearns for completeness:
This is the foundation of all desire.
Once, your heart burned with
the god-fueled fire of Prometheus.
Now, like a baby’s cry
in the night, the heart wails,
begging to be heard. Echoes
permeate the dampened air.
You must breed a new heart,
with new desires for trust,
tightening it together with
a titanium plate. This fiery wound
shall not be opened again,
though it aches and aches
throughout your dazed and wandering mind.
Let poetry be your guide, its trust
is eternal, it seeks the ideal,
it comforts the sorrowful,
it burns away the dead wood
of the present, its lines inspire
the hopeless mind to rekindle the flames
of passion. It raises you above
the broken pieces of existence. You
have the choice: Live or die, wallow
in despair, or claw your way out
of your burnt, battered shell. You can
decide: Let poetry become your new heart.
Forever cauterized, it will not bleed.
The sea was once our prehistoric home.
O how we adapted to its buoyant waves,
to its turquoise-blue infinities,
chasing seaweed, driftwood and coral,
before belly-flopping onto dry ground.
Now, the sea threatens our ancestral lands,
the sea that falls through viral skies
with their charcoal-smudged infinities.
A swelling flood, chasing mindless evil,
destroying mother and child, raining grief.
Once sea-bound creatures now drown in ICU,
ill-adapted to fight the flood’s malevolent intent:
to purge the Earth of all who cannot resist
its rushing, rising tsunami of droplets, before
proclaiming its final conquest of our unbreathing world.
Now, only mercy will be our home, built out of
deepest despair. Now, only loving, omnipresent
infinities circle the unseen rain of virus that suffocates
all who helplessly succumb to its flood.
Only mercy can make this habitat live again,
cultivated on moistened soil, on Edenic, healing ground.
At 17, Arlice W. Davenport read “In Just-” by E. E. Cummings. He was amazed at the way the poet had reinvented spacing, punctuation and syntax to create a new breed of poem. Inspired, Davenport has been writing poetry ever since. He is the author of the forthcoming Setting the Waves on Fire: Poems (Meadowlark Books).