Beth Gordon, In the Name of a Higher Cause

Unbridled Destruction in the Name of a Higher Cause

The radio news is dire, this week’s predicted
a hurricane named after an angel or my murderous

next door neighbor in 1972 who pulled
wings from every insect that foolishly entered

his atmosphere or the prison-free heroin addict
who broke my daughter’s arm then drove

her to the hospital to declare his undying
love. For months, she was spoon-fed watery

broth and pulverized food by a kind co-worker
who died alone in his apartment four years

later, they say it was the flu, but we were not
there, we were somewhere else and did not hold

his hand. His name is not in today’s forecast,
his path without flooded trees or shattered

homes, refugees of a 1.5-degree increase in ocean
temperatures. Mayor Outlaw of New Bern, NC

has been on NPR twice in one month, first to speak
about the fortitude of shore dwellers and the fact

that his beloved town has been named a number
one destination for retirees with more money

than the average citizen who lives within walking
distance of his modest pre-antebellum with no

basement. Second, to speak with shakier voice about
the volunteers he has enlisted from six neighboring

towns to clear debris from Florence before the latest
monster arrives and tosses stray bricks from Sally’s

deconstructed house through her cousin’s window
and kills the baby, born six months ago, named after

his grandfather, and all I can think of is your cat.
How he should be dead, hit by a car in 2014 and the vet

offered to save him for five thousand dollars that you
did not have, so you nursed him back to the living

with an eye dropper and cotton towels, kept him inside
away from coyotes, less civilized cats and storm surges

that will travel from Florida or Puerto Rico, and drag
everything you love back to the nameless depths.

Morning Walk with Dead Possum, Breakfast and Parallel Universe

Freshly slaughtered by UPS truck, hungover driver, or the unnecessary text of my church-going neighbor reminding her husband to buy milk, it’s what we always feared, the morning news

in my ears says a body is found on the Metrolink track, unidentified, no further details to share and I wonder if they share an expression, no maggots or crows have arrived, a tiny river of blood

still flowing from the marsupial mouth, I missed the murder by seconds, her surprised soul rising in a confusion of gravel and faulty brakes, the hushed vanishing, steps ahead of mine,

had I not stopped to adjust my headphones, change the podcast from Columbine to Vietnam, rounded this corner two minutes earlier, I would have witnessed the living thing, the conversion

from mammal to rock, and I am aware of my refrigerator, of eggs I boiled for breakfast, of my other life with chickens and dirt, an axe and old tree stump, a lover, a plucking of feathers,

my hands forever the hands of death, reminding me that I am not important and neither is this day, in the queue of days and corners, of decisions to behead hens or turn left instead of right,

of gunfire speaking to me from a magical box, of bars and libraries where I have discussed the survival of consciousness, the way calendars tell lies with candles and rare orchids, how

time cannot be weighed like an enlarged heart, and I step over the carcass without flinching and call you to say I hate this time of year, knowing she is going to die on a Wednesday, the circle

unbroken, there will be no photos of her on a carousel pony, the calliope music grinds like an unwanted journey, I will fall again on the emergency room floor and someone will hand me this

ghost of a baby, and again I will memorize her surprised expression, her petal mouth, and again I will speak her name like a spell, like a question, like a life, where everything matters not at all.

Beth Gordon received her MFA from American University (Washington DC) a long time ago and was not heard from again until 2017 when her poems began to appear in numerous journals including Into the Void, Outlook Springs, Califragile, Anti-Heroin Chic and After Happy Hour Review. Her poems have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. She is also Poetry Editor of Gone Lawn.


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