perfect, lifeless boys
in the sunshine
dead or dying
in this new battlefield
in schoolhouses
here, where guns
are business,
this country
where we dare not want
or mention the poison
claiming them
in such great numbers

too long in this season
is blinding us to what we love


NaPoWriMo2023 Challenge Day 6: off topic today. Just could wrap my brain around the ask. Soooo….It’s been a while since I wrote a blackout poem. I found this stunning poem by Molly McCully Brown. The title grabbed me right away because I live in Virginia. Her words resonated with me and my own experience here. My take after gleaning from her words resulted in another poem right from the current headlines. I wish it wasn’t 😟
Virginia, Autumn
by Molly McCully Brown

October, I’m dragging the dog away from perfect birds
lifeless on the pavement. By the water, boy in dress blues
with bayonets, the blistered hulls of boxships. Everything
is sunshine. Everything is dead, or dying, and this isn’t
a new thought. I grew up here, but farther from the ocean.
Each April, they took us to the battlefield, marched us
in schoolhouse lines up courthouse steps: here
is where the war ended. Never mind that it was fall
before the final battleship lowered its flag; never mind
that we still haven’t fired the last gun. What business
do I have wanting a baby here: in this body
where I can’t keep my balance, this country
where we can’t keep anything alive that needs us,
or dares not to, not even the switchgrass
pale and starved for groundwater? And still,
I do want. I search the news for mention of the birds,
whatever poison or disease I’m sure is claiming them
in such great numbers
: meadowlarks, house wrens,
chickadees, starlings. Once even a gray gull, pulled
open at the chest before we found him, hollowed
of his organs. It takes a long time—too long
for me to understand the sun in this season
is blinding, and the birds are flying into windows
all around me, fourteen stories up. Flying into glass
and falling. What we love is rarely blameless.
Is it a failure that I wouldn’t trade this brightness?
I imagine pointing upward for my daughter:
Look, there, how it catches in the changing trees.

Copyright © 2023 by Molly McCully Brown. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 5, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

9 responses to “poison

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