Sample Poems by Peter Neil Carroll
Birds of Dakota
Old Highway 2 leads to a steel fence
far off the road. Circular tracks wait
for the mobile multi-warhead vehicles vehicles.
Otherwise only hay fields, cows, a silo,
red barn, hills reaching to the sky-
a distant train of tankers freights east.
The Bomb sleeps underground, its
brain, organs, vessels hard-wired.
A gray terminal guards the software.
The officer looks twice, head
to toe, decides to tell me the story
of a farmer pestered by blackbirds:
You see, he fired three shots
into a peach tree, a flock of helicopters
landed, soldiers asked him questions.
I start over. At the airbase, a tour bus
passes the runway of antique
bombers- B-29, -36, -52.
Glossy white, Minute Man 2 sits
80-feet deep in concrete. Its warhead
arms in ten seconds; 1.2 megatons.
Inside war is woven: cable, batteries,
sextants; ghosts of warriors, physicists,
engineers; the air cold, time frozen.
Launched once, the rocket test-coded
to a vacant field, its fire too fast
for human eyes. The wheat sizzles.
The walleye flat on shell-rock sand
attracts a buzz of blue-bottle flies.
The fish I ate roils my stomach.
Here lies its cousin baking in sun.
Two more come bobbing into shore,
pushed by the wake of a speedboat
spitting blue exhaust. The current cares
as little as the sailor, as the sand
on the beach. The lake smells
fishy. The walleyes swallowed
more toxin than I did. Only flies feast.
I Hadn't Held a Rose
so close, tickled
by dense perfume.
Her children moved
in turn, one
carried the urn.
Beneath a pinon tree, one
spilled white ash
on desert earth.
One stripped the rose
scattering red on white.
One planted a vertical stem.
She gave us the world, one said.
I placed a round red stone
her slender pile.
We left her where thistles
wouldn't harm the view.
Morning at Spiro Mounds
At the crest of holy ground,
cloud-piercing light quickens
the wings of blue butterflies.
A thousand years ago, a woman
cracked walnuts with rock, shucking
husks into buckets to make dye.
Her jewelry-bone earrings, necklace,
finger rings-grave robbers have taken.
Her name is long lost.
Here a masked shaman sighted equinox,
eclipse. I picture her eyes brightening
at the miracle of caterpillars.