A Journal of poetry and kindred prose

Sally Allen McNall

has lived and written and taught in Kansas, New Zealand, Ohio and California, and published in New Letters, Cottonwood, Prairie Schooner, Nimrod, and Barrow Street, among others.

Her chapbook, How to Behave at the Zoo and Other Lessons, was a winner of the State Street Press competition. Her first book manuscript, Rescue, won the Backwaters Press Prize. Another chapbook, Trying to write a poem without the word blood in it, came out last year. A new book, with the working title Where Once, is in progress.

—Back to Orsorum Contents—

Cease your struggle

Be a sailing ship creaking away with a cargo of bones.
Be a river, or a bright sheet of water falling.
Be the yellow leaves of the gingko in the big storm.

Lose the right engine, then the left engine.
Be the torn air.
Be an animal that has learned to fear us.

Be the martyr translated to mist by his bomb.
Be the hands carrying food, or carrying garbage.
Be snow beneath sun, or the climber who hears the avalanche begin.

See your last child die of hunger.
Go onstage howling and high.
Collect enough debris and ice to reflect light. Then orbit.

Be the mountain mudhouse in the earthquake.
Descend the fallopian tube.
Be the forest canopy as it too ignites.



The naturalist set the pace. The day was gray sky
and green depths and shinings. I had to watch
the path and listen. The sky moved over
at hard wind speed. Light rain fell. Why
do rock, tree, water in a certain grouping,
seem beautiful?

Imagine more wars, disasters, the four horsemen
herding us into deserts where we labor
to grow corn beans squash.
Iron collars, if that’s what it takes, chains,
human sacrifice, if that’s what it takes
to make rain fall. Some cannibalism.
What hasn’t already happened to us?