Poem by Brendan Walsh
A little girl had died. Her village
rendered the tiny body ashes — smoke
ascended and fell as dust,
impregnating the ground. The dust and dirt
swirled with rain, fortified a farmer’s
corn crop and with it, his record harvest.
The fat gold jewels kept him afloat at market,
his wife wrote dozens of corn recipes,
their children gained weight like city kids.
With every corn stalk, they ate the girl,
until she floated in one hundred skins.
And the market-folk, who purchased those ears,
internalized her drowned soul; she eclipsed
samsara, seceding from suffering
in the bodies of strangers, becoming
everything a little girl could not —
a policeman, some drunks, a stray dog, a family
of seven, the monks, a rich Chinese man.
Were the farmer a Shakespeare reader, if
Hamlet was translated into Lao, and
if he had known his crop sprung from the life
of a four-year-old dead from dengue — burned
in a pyre — he would have been tempted
to quote the line about kings dying, then
worms eating kings, fish eating worms, poor men
eating the fish and in doing so, eating
the bodies of kings. He would have thought this
an apt comparison, certainly, though
the little girl was no king, and he
was too busy praying in the temple
for another bumper crop next harvest,
another ash-rain filled with stirring youth,
to translate Shakespeare or wonder how
life travels from one thing to the other.
The 2017 Luminaire Award for Best Poetry
We are pleased to announce this poem as a finalist for the 2017 Luminaire Award for Best Poetry, honoring the independent press’ best poems and hybrid works of the year. The winners are selected by an external panel that judges all pieces blind and chooses the full list of 12 finalists from hundreds of entries. Alternating Current does not determine the final outcome for the judging; the external judges’ decisions are final.
Brendan Walsh has lived and taught in South Korea, Laos, and South Florida. His work appears in Glass Poetry, Indianapolis Review, Wisconsin Review, Mudfish, Lines + Stars, and other journals. He is the author of Make Anything Whole (Five Oaks Press), Go (Aldrich Press), and Buddha vs. Bonobo (Sutra Press). He’s online at www.brendanwalshpoetry.com.