Three Poems

Shaoni C. White

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*These poems are best read on a computer screen.

 

This Gleaming Dismay

So I tried to co-write this with a starfish

but they’re not very good at group projects. I asked

my would-be co-author to share its Google Calendar

and it said

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    which I thought was really rather rude.

I mean honestly, it’s just the sort of thing you’d expect 

from an organism that doesn’t even know

what health insurance is. I did my best to collaborate

but for Christ’s sake, this fleshy idiot doesn’t even know

how to be misgendered on a Zoom call or 

how to be harassed by climate change deniers

on Twitter. I asked it how to slow our apocalypse

and it said

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as if it didn’t even know 

what free verse was, or the Anthropocene,

or how to read a scientific article or how to panic

over the uselessness of art. Here I am

trying my best to sustain its brainless animacy

on scansion alone and it won’t even thank me,

it just says

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    I asked if it was scared of extinction

and it flinched from its own particular dissolution.

It didn’t know what a species was

and I got the feeling that 

if it had known, it wouldn’t have cared.

So maybe this is a human thing, this gleaming dismay

that means we make co-authors of starfish, clutch

at linguistic symbiosis, fail at marriage

across a species divide. I suggested splitting up

and it

said

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      which even I can admit is fair enough.

It’s too late to back out now. We’re stuck with each other

through erosion and acidification, monsoon and drought.

And hey, when you think about it, we do have

at least one thing in common, and you know, I’d say

it’s a pretty big thing, maybe even the biggest thing,

maybe even the only thing: when you get right down to it

at least we’ve got our stellar ability, our show-stopping capacity,

our truly mind-boggling

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propensity

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to die

 

The Vulture

The tide takes dermis and tendon, hand and eye. Salt, air, birdsong 


 

     14,109.75             124.00              0.89%


 

wash through me. I watch the clouds

     9,281.10               76.10                0.83%

and i am ending

 

in their anxious departure. A pigeon recites stock numbers


 

     29,161.80             213.07              0.74%


 

to ward away misfortune, incanting the Dow Jones and the NASDAQ.


 

     14,174.14               104.72              0.74%


 

     40,086                 277                   0.69%


 

I let him hop away with my earlobe in his beak.


 

     71.19                     0.28                 0.39%


 

A seagull sings the rising seas


 

     6,616.35               15.69                0.24%

and i am ending

 

and dreams the planet ocean-drowned.

I let him free my lungs, brine-coated


 

     458.32                  0.81                  0.18%


 

from between my barnacled ribs.


 

A vulture swallows my teeth.


 

     4,255.15                7.71                   0.18%

I say

 

     25,757.83              40.41                0.16%

(you know)

 

     52,551.53              76.66               0.15%

(most people

would stop to chat first)

 

     0.8871                  0.0005             0.06%

 

The vulture says

“What’s there to talk about? World’s ending.”


 

     0.7714                   0.0004            0.04%

(it’ll be ending for a while

what’s so urgent

you don’t have time

for please and thank you?)

     110.08                  0.00                 0.00%


 

The vulture says

“Things to do. No time. Soon enough


 

     3,589.75               -12.11                -0.058%


 

we’ll be too dead to have time for anything at all.

Don’t you have things to do?”

     3,153.14               -4.83                 -0.15%

(yes)

 

and i am ending

 

(i’m watching the sky)

 

     4,085.51               6.73                  -0.16% 

 

“Aren’t you scared?”

 

     34,393.75            -85.85               -0.25% 

 

(no)

 

     34,259                 -98                   -.0.29%


 

I let the vulture take my tongue.

 

and i am ending

 

And

 

     27.995                 -0.151                -0.54%


 

I am ending.

Waves make homes in my skull. 

The sun falls down


 

     1,867.70               -11.90               -0.63%

 

inch by inch, mile by mile.

 

     0.0000               0.000               0.00%


 

The tide is high.

 

Mother of Thousands

So there’s this plant

called a mother of thousands.

It flings itself outward

like a universe. 

 

    Try This One Weird Trick

    To Become Infinite!

 

  Pluck a bee from a petal.

  Split it between your teeth.

 

 

A childhood spent stealing sweetness

from honeysuckle? Buddy, that’s amateur hour.


 

Become porous. Learn how to be stung.

Now this mother of thousands,

it’s a bit of a character—

 

  A bee’s last spasm

  (organic, locally sourced, handmade)

  should be sweet enough to burn the throat.

 

    Doctors HATE It!

 

I said to it, you know

you need water to stay alive, and it said

wow, you’re so cute! I have no regard for death

but I’m sure that’ll be useful

for something that does :)

 

  Pair with pinot noir, or for those less eager

  to forget their limbs 

  in wine-dark dissolution,

 

  rainwater.

 

      I hear our every cell holds saltwater 

      like the sea. 

 

    The afternoon touches each stem

    with a golden hand. 

 

      If you could take it in your palms

      do you think it would be cold?

 

    The bright hum of daytime

    pours itself down my optic nerve.

 

      Like snowmelt?

 

    My pupils flutter like a honeysuckle petal

    with an anxiety disorder.

 

      Do you think it would be warm?

 

    The Answer Will Shock You!

 

    It stings.

 

That tip about water and life was soooo fake!

I ate the ocean whole

and my kidneys choked on the brine.

 

Figured out this great workaround, though!

Turns out

 

    mutual drowning

    is its own kind of marriage. Turns out

 

  the ocean will unmake you

  into more ocean

 

      if you wait long enough.

Shaoni C. White writes and researches speculative fiction and poetry. Their poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Channel Magazine, Fantasy Magazine, Apparition Lit and Vastarien. Their short fiction has appeared in Uncanny Magazine and PodCastle. Raised in Southern California, they are currently working toward a BA in English Literature and Linguistics at Swarthmore College. Find them at shaonicwhite.com or on Twitter at @shaonicwhite.

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