Shanna Compton

The Vulture

You catch yourself
first thing in the morning
saying this is not a good day
Prescience is a virtue A vulture circles
over the river knowing already
you’re late to your appointment
have canceled preemptively in your heart
the possibilities that could have wavered
in the pink glass along the far bank
the bridge in its green dress dipping
A world in which
children choke on gas & men posture
over them The vulture settles
on a bare tree above the wing dam
surviving her kingdom
the only way she knows how
preening her hideous head
You catch yourself
first thing in the morning


I couldn’t write today
in the face of that bomb
which makes me wonder
how we ever can but talking
to ourselves & each other in poems
is a manner of coping

When I am angry that poems
do nothing I am angry
& poems do appear to hold it
I run over the brim of the bowl
I hold my arms out to the trashed earth
& all its frightened & ferocious people

I make no space for that man here
who means biggest best most fantastic most lethal
when he says mother but he grabs my space
nevertheless headlines airtime theoretical lives
he doesn’t bother to imagine spreadsheets
full of numbers numbers full of awful profit

I’m awful as a prophet but I know
poems will burst from us nevertheless
know that Moab was both brother & son
to his mother whose mother turned back
for a final look at the burning world Maybe she
is the mother meant Mother of bombs
Mother of brother-sons Daughter-mother of a lot
of fucking woe who burst as we burst

our damns our horror our burst in air

Confirming Your Various Assumptions

Of course the animals are stone.
Of course the men are stone.
Yes the homes are stone & their doors are stone also.

Yet the animals are not stone.
Yet the women are not stone.

The smallest unit of stone is the grain of sand.
No help.

Yes the cities are thunder.
Yes the streets among them thunder.
The fields beyond them raucous with the thunder of stars
pillaging the unheeded botanical sea.

Rumbling isn’t always in the distance.
A grain of salt. A single hair.
A fleck of ice.
No help.

We have outlived the thunder.
Outpaced the streets
& somehow hushed even the stars.
Quiet, dumb stones.
Quiet, dumb doors.
Crack, stone men.

Flick. Flick.
No help.

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Shanna Compton is the author of Creature Sounds Fade (Black Lawrence, 2020), Brink (Bloof, 2013), For Girls (Bloof, 2008), Down Spooky (Winnow, 2005), and is currently at work on a book-length speculative poem, The Hazard Cycle. New poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in the Nation, jubilat, Bennington Review, Oversound, and Bone Bouquet. She works as a freelance book designer and editor in Lambertville, NJ.