Poetry by Cody Lumpkin
for Lucy Platt
Her left hand cups an infected ear.
It hurts her to swallow or sit still
as her father conducts a class on poetry,
the chicken-scratch art of sharpening
the dull flints of the world. He meditates
on stanza breaks and the gear-shifting turns
of a single long line. She looks bored,
out of school, but left to sit
in a classroom with no one her age.
No one interested in Cleopatra films
or drawing horses anymore or the way
worms eat leaves inside a shoebox.
So she takes a piece of chalk,
the length of an unlit cigarette,
and begins to ping the blackboard
until showerhead city fountains
spray tall buildings. She labels them.
There is a skyscraper Starbucks,
a book-shaped Snow Bear Frozen
Custard, and a Bank One that looms
above her city like some cathedral.
There is a river and a bridge with fireworks
spangling the night, as if every crossing
should declare exultation. Blooming over
these box-houses is the compass rose
her father drew to explain some metaphor.
It points north to a single, jagged peak,
an upside-down ice-cream cone.
To the south a husband, wife, and two kids
at a picnic munch on triangle sandwiches.
After she sketches her world, she erases
the compass, replaces it with her own sun,
molten, blasting chalk dust outward. One ray
reaches all the way to the family dog sniffing
the husks of abandoned squirrel nuts. Her fur
pattern tectonic plates of brown and white.