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Early in the 21st Century
The little girl and the bear put off bedtime. The sun is still up. The sun is still up. And the moon is a bright hangnail. The sky fills with airplanes, helicopters, winged bugs. The sky empties; blue is a heartbeat so large the cardiogram doesn’t fit on one screen. The little girl and the bear read books and lay around in just underwear. They want to know what words mean. What the world means. They ask for water, for another chance to brush their teeth. The sharp, sharp swords growing in their mouths. The bear falls asleep first, snoring into the wall where a tribe of hungry ants gets high on the fumes of flowers and honey. The little girl is working out a pattern in the ceiling; it might be a map. It might show her the picture of before-the-attack.
The Little Girl and the Bear Work a Puzzle of the Earth
And the North Wind, with her trumpet and star strewn hair is their favorite. Then the pod of blue whales wrapped along the western shoreline. The little girl assures the bear, some day the parent people will come back. The bear does not care and thinks only of the ice floe and how cold seems like it would be silent, but he believes it’s more like static—a hum electric that occasionally cracks fantastic. Now the little girl is working on a double-decker bus, the red pieces like berries in her fingers. She can’t get the bus to fit back on the Continent. The Continent. Everything is coming apart, but this is only one way to look at it. The little girl likes the idea of burying the cardboard pieces in the yard so everything can return; un-colonized layers of paper and fabricated inks, washing back, year after year into the sediment, into the marrow of buried bones.
Still in the 21st Century
The little girl and the bear use an adding machine to ring up the dead. They press their cheeks to the equals sign. Hello? Hello? No one is there. Nothing is equal. They clear the screen and talk about who else they can call. At no time in their lives has a phone been a phone. The whole time they’ve been alive, people have been dying, often in numbers too large to configure. They subtract, they add, they voice demands into a rectangle that no one answers. We have no answers. They C the screen again and abandon the device. All lines are busy; outside, the sun burns the wings of bees who sit too long on fuzzy tongues of ditch lilies.
A Sixth Great Extinction
Sanctuaries dissolve in sepia sunsets. And the little girl rolls the bear onto his side. There are, she thinks, probably seven ways not to die, but it’s hard to think of them on time. She palms his chest, then rests her ear to his breast; there is a small clap: thunder repeats thunder repeats thunder. A bounce to her eardrum, she curls down beside him. Treetops eyelash the dusk sky. Contrails mimic meteorites and most of life on Earth is dying out. She considers this moment, this bud tip of the 21st century, and the human capacity to ignore. Around their two bodies, the soil hums in microscopic cosmopolitan traffic jams along a superhighway of organic matter. The little girl closes her eyes above networked roots, dozes in a nest subterranean. The bear breathes more slowly now. Beyond, there are men with guns, but there are always men with guns.
-from Ursa Minor, elsewhere magazine 2018
PROMPT: Write a prose poem in which you interact with an animal that has some sort of significance in your life. Use the animal as vehicle to explore an important event in your life, trauma, or something integral to the human condition. Use vivid images of the wild and nature in your prose poem. –by Britny Cordera, POW Intern
BIO: AMELIA MARTENS is the author of The Spoons in the Grass are There To Dig a Moat (2016), a book of prose poems, selected by Sarabande Books for the 2014 Linda Bruckheimer Series in Kentucky Literature. She received both an MFA in Creative Writing and an MS in Literacy, Culture, and Language Education from Indiana University and currently teaches as an First Year Experience instructor for West Kentucky Community & Technical College, where she is also the Associate Literary Editor for WKCTC’s Exit 7: A Journal of Literature and Art. Her work has been supported by a 2019 Al Smith Individual Artist Fellowship from the Kentucky Arts Council, a Sustainable Arts Fellowship to Rivendell Writer’s Colony in 2017, an Artist Enrichment Grant from the Kentucky Foundation for Women in 2016, and an Emerging Artist Grant from the Kentucky Arts Council in 2011. She is a recent Pushcart nominee and the author of four poetry chapbooks: Ursa Minor (winner of the 2017 Prose Poetry Prize from elsewhere magazine, 2018), A Series of Faults (Finishing Line Press, 2014), Clatter (Floating Wolf Quarterly, 2013), and Purgatory (winner of the Spring 2010 Black River Chapbook competition; Black Lawrence Press, 2012). Her new poems appear, or are forthcoming in: Cave Wall, Pidgeonholes, Plume, Diode, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and Ninth Letter. She is married to the poet Britton Shurley; they have two smart/beautiful/brave daughters and a ridiculous dog.