It happened so fast, like an accident on the freeway
except it was right here, in the middle of our homes.
The line of sorrow divides our lives, divides our
neighborhood. Living on this side means all your family
photos, every bed, every button is grey dust. After the sirens
after the running, after we could breathe again, we stood in little
little clumps, sharing our loss and looking across the line
of sorrow to houses still standing, not even slightly scorched by
the furious wall of flames. Of course, the question—why, why
why us?—knocks unbidden, again and again in our troubled hearts.
This golden moment, a drop of honey, limpid light
amber flows in my veins, pollen fills my lungs.
The air, so still, a white feather drops straight down.
(All futures are possible but some are more likely.)
Green leaves, radiant in warm afternoon rays
tender, splendid, glossy life, lighting up the entire sky.
Weathervanes spin, clouds hang heavy with grit.
(Believe in the best new day you can.)
Jenny told us—the abuse of power should come as no surprise.
Few who grip the grinding levers see what else it is good for.
Burn for another sun, another golden moment.
(Walk on, a banked fire smoldering in your heart.)
Things not to say at dinner parties
Hear the young girls betrayed by innocent dreams
of love, stolen from weeping suburban streets
drugged and sold behind the truck stop’s diner
soft young flesh shaking in the shadows.
Remember the hidden history of the Gold Rush
Forty-niners paying glittering dust to peg houses
for young boys forced to sit on wooden rods
keeping them stretched for dark desires.
See the color of dried blood in stairwells
staining the lives of raped women.
No bleach can lift the marks, while young
men walk away, smooth skin unscathed.
Watch the men in fine tight suits, masters
of the day, masters of the dollar. Crisp white shirts
burnished hair, so little time to spare, snorting coke
and drilling girls with too high heels, too hard eyes.
Follow these noble men with soft white hands
as they rob the world half-blind, leaving a trail
of single mothers gripping pink slips, their quiet plans
now ragged holes, silently, secretly longing for death.
Shake the teenage daughters in damp basements
thin wrists boldly tattooed—Stay Strong, Get Free—
blue veins lined with dozens of raw needle marks
their bellies slowly swelling in tight faded jeans.
I. In Runnymede’s muddy meadow, the glorious proposition arises
A. The Great Charter of Liberty is carefully inscribed on sheep skin parchment
1. When held aloft, people cheer loudly and wave their arms
2. Some still grip the hilt of their swords
B. Six hundred years later, the proposition is our bedrock
1. Unfortunately, we never notice the ground until there is an earthquake
II. Remembering things is a lot of work
A. Long ago we believed that God appointed kings
1. Kings believed they should hire men to wipe their asses
2. You wipe your own ass
B. Today, the King did not mount your head on a pike at the city gates
1. Or even the head of someone you might like to see there
2. No one notices
III. Teachers stop speaking of the proposition
A. Everyone forgets almost everything
1. Anyhow, who knows Latin anymore?
B. History is just a lot of stuff that already happened
1. Is the Suspension Clause suspended?
2. This all happened a long time ago, right?
IV. Change is expectable but by its very nature, unpredictable
A. Something happens
1. It is not called by its true name
2. This works as well as it ever did
B. They call them “rendered persons”
1. This does not refer to lard
V. Thinking is also a lot of work
A. Today, we celebrate forgetting everything we have forgotten
1. This apparently includes what happened yesterday
2. Will the sun ever set on the Second Act?
B. No one thinks, “Hey, they could render me next.”
1. Equality before the law can cut two ways
2. Besides, exactly what is lard and how is it rendered?
VI. We all walk on the edge of a knife
A. It hurts
1. We ignore the pain
B. We don’t know which way we will fall
1. Falling doesn’t usually kill you
2. Landing can
3. Who will even count the bodies then?
"Habeas Corpus" was previously published in Birds Fall Silent in the Mechanical Sea (great weather for MEDIA, 2019)
Deborah Kennedy’s work focuses on the challenging relationship between ourselves and the larger natural world. Her last major project is a book featuring her ecopoetry and detailed ink illustrations entitled Nature Speaks: Art and Poetry for the Earth—a recipient of the 2017 Silver Nautilus and the 2017 Eric Hoffer Poetry Book Awards. Her work has also appeared in numerous journals online and in print. Kennedy lives in San Jose, CA, where she teaches art and poetry workshops and presents poetry readings with her artwork to student, poetry and ecology groups. Her poetry and art can be enjoyed at https://www.instagram.com/deborahkennedyart/ and https://www.deborahkennedyart.com/. Deborah hopes you will support BioIntegrity’s global climate change solutions.