—with thanks to C. Rosalind Bell
Icebergs calve like this:
a glacier expands, groans,
a crevasse deepens, geometry
meets water pressure—
silent, unseen, ignored.
Thickness, impurity, stress
mix and protest, fist
thuds against its own body.
A crack like a sonic boom—
time hovers, holds its breath—
invisible knife cuts the cord.
Ice slams into water,
wave rises like a wall.
In all ways this is a birth,
a creature entering the fiery world
from an indigo blue womb,
separation and creation
in one swift gasp.
emerge out of endings.
We are the grownups now.
Today’s blood is our inheritance.
The Last Poem
—with thanks to Jorie Graham
Will the Last Poem know it’s the last poem?
Will the Last Poem be written down,
or a wisp of smoke from ruins? How will we mark
her last breath? (And if the Last Poem comes
during our lifetime, will we be saved, or devoured?)
Will the Last Poem’s alphabet be Japanese, Cherokee, English?
Cyrillic, Persian, petroglyph? Should the Last Poem’s words
be spoken, or sung? Will anyone be left to hear?
Must the Last Poem be engraved in stone, scattered
on water, eaten for sustenance? Surely the Last Poem
will be a love poem. Won’t it? That poem,
the Last Poem—will it be created by a human being,
or composed by poisoned rain and ash?
Are the lines falling into place even now? Has it found
the meter, placed the metaphor, set the type,
chosen the font, inked the press,
laid the paper? Has it favored rhyme
or slant, free or form, chant or psalm?
When the Last Poem reveals itself,
will our own words flare and flash into shapes
for the shapelessness to take back?
In the beginning: salt, indigo and jade, without form.
Beneath that weight fire and liquid rock prowl and push.
This is how land births itself: eruptions red as first blood.
Spilling like joy, like madness. Creation is a little crazed.
She cools in black ropey coils, ripples and wrinkles, blisters
and breakage. Fury eases into fields of obsidian silence,
the horizon a heart caught in one long beat. Here, God is a seed
sown by chance, mistake, luck. Here, rock becomes womb.
Life finds a cavity, spins fine roots into the dark. Blind,
but not unseeing. Lava accepts that hatchet of joy, seedling—
that release from a sealed tomb, unstoppable mapmaker.
What comes next will grow from the embers of grief.
Deborah A. Miranda is an enrolled member of the Ohlone-Costanoan Esselen Nation of the Greater Monterey Bay Area in California. Her book Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir (Heyday Books, 2013), received the PEN-Oakland Josephine Miles Literary Award, a Gold Medal from the Independent Publishers Association, and was short-listed for the William Saroyan Literary Award. This mixed-genre book traces her family into, through, and out of the Carmel Mission from 1770-2013, using oral histories, mission records, family photographs, newspaper records, ethnographic field notes, and more. For the past 15 years, Miranda has been Professor and recent John Lucian Smith Jr. Endowed Chair of English at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia where she teaches literature of the margins and creative writing.