Poem: "Childhood Triptych"

A poem by Karen Solie


Whether I’d seen them with, so to speak, my own eyes,
was not the point. I may have filed some false reports,
but I’d seen plenty. Many nights they summoned me
in their fraudulent Rapture, discriminating not between
creatures and objects lifted equally into unbelonging
and returned with forms, that is, spirits,
broken. Before the world destroys us, it confirms
our suspicions. And so I kept my incredulity at the irreparable
local disdain for storm cellars to myself, investing instead
in quasi-religious superstition and my firstborn birthright
of being consistently wrong. As atmospheric hydraulics
once more engaged and the home acre prepared to revolve
like a sickening restaurant, as the grain’s hairs stood
on end and rope ladders descended from the gospels’
green windows, my mother, in the manner of someone
who believes wholeheartedly in God’s love and its profound
uselessness, said we’d take our chances in the basement.


It was always morning. Premonition like iodine in water
or the smell of Malathion and there they were, corrupting
our rural airspace with 1970s speculative anachronism
and the analogue synth that represented the future.
They hovered appreciatively over operational secrets
of junkpile and chickenhouse as our quorum unfolded
its debate at a clear disadvantage intelligence-wise.
If little else, we affirmed the hubris of the Slavic character,
and hoped the Russians were happy now, having broadcast
into the godforsaken interplanetary void a Morse message
like a wren flushed from the bush we were hiding under.
They weren’t fitting in. Simply curious, we hoped,
even friendly, though we weren’t particularly either.
We almost got used to them. Until the altered pitch
and pneumatic exposure of a new bit of gear we’d known
in our hearts was there, and the shooting started.
My dream people, real to themselves, ran screaming.


Presumably profiting from the same virus raising the dead
in theatres then, they were days crossing the prairie,
the old joke turned inside out, an antique pace
through pasture and crop assigned by disfigurements

and dislocations of their martyrdom: burned, flayed, minus
hands and feet, exposed to wild beasts, flung headlong from
high places, transfixed, and not in a good way. Catherine
of Alexandria — as featured in the collectible card series
Sister Rose distributed in class to illustrate parables

proving the less-than-evident value of thinking
for the long term — held her disagreeable head before her.
When your heart has been broken, nothing can stop you.
A touchy lot, they didn’t look purified. We made an inventory
of our weapons, which is our way of keeping calm.
There seemed ample time to do what we needed to, given
virtues of the age. But here are the saints already among us,
anxious to communicate the burden of being chosen.


KAREN SOLIE's latest book is The Road In Is Not the Same Road Out (2015).