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David Groff


More than one in a million,
you matter in numbers—

if crushed underfoot
you are no loss.

You seem to know this,
sprawled as if stunned,
uncamouflaged on carpet

as if you could shrug,

at the end of your season,
the nights gone cold.
You reek of victim,
a wince of an insect.

Yet you ventured here,
got this far, insinuated

your species by brute accident
into this new continent,

on ships a stray invader,
in trouser cuffs a secret,

brought home by my kind
to persist as a pest,

and found this lamplit heat.

Your urge is to cast
yourself at all cost

into life which is warmth.

As I come close you
spasm into flight,

then frenzy down like fire.

You spit no stink.

I take you in hand—

tractable, grateful

or docile, a sick dog,

a moth with no flame,

a mole, eyepupil, lone coin,

crushed leafbit, lost button,

warrior’s frail shield,

embryo, envoy to heat—

and in my power we pause

before my fist decides

to drop you or crush you

or fling you into the frost.

Photobomb Poem, Taos, NM

The sky on the butt side of sunset is
a veiny blue, the clouds vapor-trailish
but not jet-made, probably, below

a mountain that looks like a mountain.

I don’t know its name or its tall tales.

Its greens go gray with drought & dusk
but it’s still strewn with glare,
hard to look at, a lung-busting climb.

Trees like brandy snifters dot the plain:

vases in a cemetery with flat plaques.

Did they know to grow here, or

who punched in seeds to snare the dirt?

Ebbing from them to me is grass,
darkening, like a wave of dishwater,
like a baby’s hair as she grows up,
but some clumps gather, dirty gold,

baskets for me to fill or burn.

After them, at the toes of my Keds,
a shadow interrupts us from the west.

Shadow: the sun’s dead end.

It echoes the mass of mountain,
messing up the postcardy view
like a starved coyote or a sundial.
I know that shadow’s name.

Small Peony

A little fist waiting to uncurl,
a little girl’s hand gripping
a ruby ring from the gumball machine,
her bee-stung pout—

the little girl being you, my mother,
with your fist that could hit,
the princess leading the pack,
wielding your pink flag,

and late in womanhood loving a flower
extravagant as you were not and were,
age weighing your petals until
they bloomed into their wrinkles,

bleeding rouge at their seams,
sighing into a deeper scent,
falling into tissued messages
I fold in my palm.

“Photobomb Poem, Taos, NM” appeared in Great River Review.

“Stinkbug” appeared in Still Against War: Poems for Marie Ponsot.

“Small Peony” appeared in Humanities Review.

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