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Steven D. Schroeder: Two Poems

Message from Old Gods | Riddle: An Adjective Objectified

Message from Old Gods

We curse you, humanity.
Not a stale threat
from the intestines of the past,
but boulders over your tomb door.
Long before science, before Loki,
coalesced inside your skulls
and rolled along your tongues,
even before stories and songs
surpassed grunts and gesticulation,
when you first walked fully bipedal,
              fashioned and grasped tools with opposable thumbs,
              sparked flame under hand-killed food,
you already knew us
and shuddered at our crawl
through muscle and joint,
every step a slog,
our power producing cracks in the cranium of earth,
                            metal veins too short to sate,
                            sanded and bleached skin and bone.
But you stayed upright
beneath the weight,
or plotted while bowed.
For want of weapons, you civilized
the wilderness, industrialized,
trying to beat us back with a brand like wildcats on winter nights,
             bind primeval magic to spokes of a wheel,
             build walls and ceilings of wood and stone:
prisons for you
to herd us into at the end
of powdered smoky barrels, cells
sealed with matchlock,
How can you think
us departed, or buried
by bulldozers and muted
under mortar, when the ground still gapes to consume the careless,
                           fire in feeding rises in revolt,
                           lust for the unattainable gnaws your body,
                           death remains the devourer?
Society is a hewn idol,
technology a new vessel.
And as airplanes,
crash, we ride
you down.

Riddle: An Adjective Objectified

I am
not Alaska, though we have
the same beginnings and a hell
of a lot in common. Not a surprise
inheritance from Aunt Agnes,
whose pit of money you forgot,
but still a thing you sometimes like to be
left. Best not to mention or annoy. Unique,
unequaled, unexcelled! Like borrowing from a bank.
In the dark, the spotlight that pins you helpless
where you stand. That time you work every muscle
fiber and finally finish the paper on Thoreau.
Trudging off the field after a knuckler from fifty feet
wobbles through your legs and into the goal
in overtime. With you whether you're home, at a party,
or in snow and sleet on I-70. How to fight, wild
as a wolf. Your dreams of walking on a river's waves
asleep and traveling past the next bend awake. A way
of life-bread and water on an island as the sails
sink into blue-and of death in a house full of cats.
On wind perfumed with frost, not in laughter.
The poet planting and the reader who plucks
words silently off the page.

Poet's Biography:
  Steven D. Schroeder edits The Eleventh Muse, the literary journal of the Poetry West organization in Colorado Springs, and makes his living as a Certified Professional Résumé Writer. His recent poetry publications include Susquehanna Quarterly and Pivot.

© 1999 - 2004, by the poets featured herein.