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/ Two Poems

Two Poems

by Michael Walsh

Elegy for a Land with Amnesia

Before fields, prairie ruled
         this land, unmade

by our plows. Standing here,
         I remember our history of blades

sinking into topsoil, tearing. Brain of earth,
         mind of plant,

natural law tells us you possess neither,
         but I dissent: your nodes

of fungal networks and roots
         challenge us to believe

in presences below our feet, their leaves
         learning.  Our blades ripped 

into vegetal ganglia: rhizomes,
         blind, hairy taproots

living ten feet down, their rootlets
         ciphers. Slashed deep,
upturned in spring sun, the dirt
         began forgetting

the river down the way, the lake
         over the hills, upturned

there too. The carving continued.
         Shrinking smaller, these hills

forgot yesterday’s rabbits,
         stones unmoved

for centuries, words for sunlight
         changing by the minute,

other knowledges likewise split
         into wriggling remnants,

suffocating under straight, simple rows
         of corn seed. Now all 

that’s left is a few inches of
         your former depths, no longer

able to pass hidden knowledge 
         in between and across: 

histories of lightning strikes known
         to neighboring trees, calendars

of light and fire understood by flowers 
         who watch for smoke

and warnings of locusts a hundred miles away, 
         eating their way closer.

Epitaph for Lost Rivers

When the glaciers could no longer maintain
their blue nations, your frozen currents  

wrestled themselves loose from interior ice,
opened their mouths of headwaters to ocean.

Vanishing, your rapids were all rushing again.
What the cold had paralyzed and built, 

your channels undermined with symphonies, 
rushing and dripping, your crescendos 

dissolving icebergs into chambers like bells.
Before drones could map your tributaries, 

you emptied your own hollows, a triumph
in covering your tracks. Know that every empire 

will accuse you of lurking waterfalls,
trespassing torrents and miscellaneous crimes

against explorers, including millions lost in maps.
Insurgents of ice, disappearing the moment 

you flow as one into the sea, may you rush quick,
reckless and so deep, the cold can never bind you.

About Michael Walsh

Michael Walsh’s poetry books include The Dirt Riddles (University of Arkansas Press) as well as two chapbooks, Adam Walking the Garden and Sleepwalks, both published by Red Dragonfly Press. Along with James Crews, he is the co-editor of Queer Nature, a poetry anthology forthcoming from Autumn House Press. His poems and stories have appeared in journals such as Alaska Quarterly ReviewBirmingham Poetry ReviewCimarron ReviewPrairie Schooner, and Southern Poetry Review. He received his MFA in Creative and Professional Writing from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Michael lives in Minneapolis and works as a curriculum administrator at the University of Minnesota and as an independent scholar and creative writing instructor.

Cold Mountain Review is published once a year in the Department of English at Appalachian State University. Support from Appalachian’s Office of Academic Affairs and College of Arts and Sciences enables CMR’s learning and publications program. The views and opinions expressed in CMR do not necessarily reflect those of university trustees, administration, faculty, students, or staff.