In the Swamp of Ugliness
If only that high, twilight hope,
shining purple stream, nebulous gauze
shot through with pearl and silver gleam,
could bind our sight evening after evening—
but no. We duck our heads, we peel and shuck
beneath a blind husk of cast-off light. The pallor,
from above, as of some lower hell. Fire
and brimstone and us below. Larval,
satisfied in our polluted nest, dulled
to longing’s ache.
It Begins with the Gaze
Leaves of dreams steep in the thin waters
that carry us, cupped and half-sleeping,
through the bright open windows of our lives.
A white curtain. A relaxed hand. The yellow
wall, memory-fresh. These perfumed cups,
still steaming, set aside as if we weren’t really
leaving, as if we meant, in a moment,
to come back. Never left.
The stars stir and storm above us.
We swim, darkdrunk, twilight-blossoms
tumbling beneath them, on this ancient wheel
flung reckless down the corridors of darkness.
The stars dance fitfully as we, but we
only last as long as puffs of breath
in airless space, and cannot see.
Launch At Three Million MPH
Rise, swords of desire—
unsheathe glitter-sharp. Splendor,
your name is grief of immortality.
Ambition must be gallows, if only death
Space. Dark. Spotted with lights
like wild eyes, distant lamps, a billion shores
marked against the indigo with burning towers.
The future is the only house big enough for all
and yet it’s time long passed that we sail into,
launching little boats into the rolling black,
the immense tide-drawn past, from which
even the lucky living will find there is
no ever leaving. No going back.
The First Generation Ships Raise Their Children
Space takes up residence inside of us.
A hollow seed, inverted, births the plant
with black leaves and steel-gray flowers
uncurling in our necks.
We open our mouths and stars fall out.
Hungry, hungry, in between the suns
of almost home, can’t-be home, wish-was home.
We would kneel and shovel dirt
into our sun-abandoned mouths,
but in space, no gravity—no down—
Our bones evaporate. Like mosaic windows
streamed through with radiation,
though human born, we begin to taste
a whispered name: alien.
We mouth and sign. All must be silence
in the star-reft void.
And Some of Them Believe
He who would be a priest must ask: what is bread?
The ship cannot tell him. Fire is a number
on a calculating screen. Flour is forbidden,
a loose white storm. The alchemy of heat-change
must be unknown in the metal belly
of the holding pattern—fire, after all, eats air—
must pause, to endure the long
kite-tail stream, sail-fling, shot forth
between hearths, harvests, hearts.
Someday, some inhuman ground
will be trod by merely human feet.
But there will be no fleshy God
to pluck forbidden heads of grain.
There will be no wheat.
Body of Christ, how will we survive,
where you have never been to toil, sow, and reap,
to sanctify our bodysoil?
Every scorched and frozen rock we will
gratefully call earth. Chew our space-grown
peas, kick the lifeless dirt. And but for
waste of water, we would weep.
Here we are, Lord—buried breathless in the dark.
Call us second-life, by name, by hand
reached out for hand. Bring your tears
to us once more.
Make us breath-wet clay again,
grounded, breathing, unwrapped and blinking
in the bright tomb door.
LeighAnna Schesser is the author of Heartland (Anchor & Plume Press, 2016), a poetry chapbook that explores the convergence of landscape, identity, love, and faith. Her poems and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in publications such as Flint Hills Review, Dappled Things, Presence, Peacock Journal, Angelus News, and Ignitum Today. LeighAnna earned her BA at Benedictine College and her MFA at North Carolina State University. She lives in Kansas with her family and blogs at acanticleforhomestead.com.