This selection, chosen by Guest Curator Elizabeth Vignali, is from The Tilt Torn Away from the Seasons by Acre Books in 2020.
Agnus, Dei: Mars
Less than a light-year
ahead, this atmosphere
swirls and thickens toward equilibrium,
the first conifers
pricking the air, dawn
a blue yonder, the robin’s egg.
This world that would not
move, this world that once looked
plain and red as sealing wax
covers its face
with grass, with a noise
like breath blown in a bottle.
Despite the warnings, I’ll step out
unhindered by tank or mask,
become too winded
for words or even listening. I’ll wander
through white blooms of greasewood,
collapse at the mountain’s foot.
Our drifting, they say, is genetic
in nature, a destiny hardwired
in our cells or the stars.
But on Earth—as the story goes—
my kin called out for mercy,
sheep down to skin and bone.
Their planet had grown too warm
Everyone had to make a choice.
We live, now, without
animals, don’t know how
or what to confess. We know only one prayer:
Make this sol a clear, high note,
make the dust devils weaken. Make my cells
repair. Keep me
from ultraviolet arrows.
Let the air I hold be sweet.
Once, in place of the canary,
we sent out a trio of women:
a six-lung test, red flues open.
The younger two crossed
and lived, rushed back to tell
the good news. And the old one,
they call her a miracle.
They say she went out singing.
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