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Three Poems

Toy Elegy Ending in Ars Poetica, with Lines from W.S. Merwin

Just minutes after
taking off, the toy plane crumples
into the child’s black blanket, parts
the starry fuzz, becomes
189 bodies flattened
and curled around her
shoulders—a leg
in Saturn’s rings, a head
orbiting Mars—O tireless
travelers. So many bodies
it takes to keep the child
warm. She dreams the words


the toy people were
reading—in books, on menus—the sentences the air
and the ocean will finish, the requests the plush solar
system will now fulfill. And, maybe Every year, a star
will grab his orange juice—no ice, pretzels. And the black
fuzz will whisper, without knowing it I have
passed the day. And when she wakes, her bones

will have gained a little mass. You look
taller, her mother will say in the morning. And each
day, she will grow taller and her mother, each day, will lose
interest, her eyes will hardly flicker
from the paint-by-numbers
on the screen. And in this city


I’m about to leave, I’ve grown used to the sound of trains like ceiling
fans. Because people see real things as toys to distance

themselves from loss, and children see real things as toys, and so
they shoot their mothers at baseball games. And once, my grandmother


paid me a dollar a week to watch
a doll—Mo, short for Amore.
He must have spent
his life in a cardboard’s lost
& found, in a strange garment—yellow
overalls. His hair—uneven, coarse, slightly
sticky—I stroked it anyway, lullabied
and whispered, Don’t worry, I want you
here. I floated

up from a seafoamed
space, surprised
at the Earth, eyeing the blank
ceiling fan from my rocker, as my feet
dangled, as I held
some words you can
cover your shoulders with.


Oxbow Lake, Meander Scar

Maybe you’re the river
and I’m the abandoned
curve becoming crayoned

paper over your veins. Tell the dust
it’s time to gather. Fill me
with another body, another stone.


(Old) Bryantown (Road)

—Queen Anne’s County, Maryland

It always rusts over. We paint our metal
roof red. Sometime before me, the wind wasn’t

wind anymore. And flames forgot
they had their own agenda. And the sky forgot the town I never

met—the town my house is. Two charred trees mark
the plot. Abandoned sink and siding, her old bedroom, his favorite

reading spot down to ground—simulation’s soil. And later I picnicked
on ponds of hog slide, slept in some Master’s quarters, maybe. What’s asking

in this yard post, this old copper fence bent? What’s asking in this empty
silo, what mouths filled its silence and called back

each grain? Turn every mossy brick, every shard of dirt-
packed roof slate. Because here (and on street corners and sidewalks

and in parking lots) they fire the next innocent frame, call it practice
in the name of safety, let the evidence—mason jar, spigot, scrap

of sweatshirt—bury. And what is history
if it isn’t these darkened empty branches, if it isn’t the ground

you walk on, the flecks in the air we breathe, what are flecks in the air
but smoke? Heat-gutted bone-houses holding the ground before the wind

erases them. This distance rumbling in. From my bedroom
window, black bark greening as the vines cover

the trees like footsteps, as the vines
carry the soil, the names.

Emma DePanise is a poet from Maryland. She is a winner of a 2019 AWP Intro Journals Award and the 2018 winner of the Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry. She is an editor for The Shore, an online poetry journal.