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Tuesday, January 14, 2020


by Gail Goepfert

Thick plumes of smoke rise from bush fires on the coast of East Gippsland in Victoria, Australia, on Saturday. (Australian Maritime Safety Authority/Reuters via The Washington Post, January 5, 2020)

Fog out the window. Low-
slung and grayed,
near the ground.
Veiling what will come of this day.

Waken, light summons.


I read snippets—
weigh want and need
to know
against my belly’s grit.

Bulletins. Updates.

Winter. Closed in.
No sound of the wire-buzz,
outside—safety and beauty de-
flowered by a string of high-
voltage lines, transmits
news that’s breaking.


Nothing gray about cancer.

I shouldn’t be recycling
store receipts—paper
with Bisphenol A, a cancer-
causing chemical that contaminates
what China recycles
of “foreign trash”—
yang laji.

How to recycle the unrecyclable.


Australian bushfires
beyond beyond.
A smoke cloud
discernible by satellite vaster
than our continent.

The ache of witness—
beneath plumes and plumes
of orange haze, droves
of charred carcasses, kangaroo
and koala, slumped
on the roadsides.

People wobble
on their heels in the sand,
imprint the beaches
of retreat and escape—
lungs’ bronchi robbed
of oxygen.

Who cannot succumb
to the fire-slaughter?
The news of it?

Some still blind-eyed
though they see.


At home, in the land
of the free, I skim word
of the playground bravado
vis-à-vis the erasure of Iran’s
Soleimani as if erasure
will cure anything.

Tarzan-­ian inflated chests
playing Red Rover
with weapons
forgetting others left to spin
on the merry-go-round.

He should have been killed years ago.

Promises of hard revenge,
the boasts of bullies.

You started it. We will end it.


Will anyone be left to weep
where the gravediggers bury?


Forecast: ashen.

Gail Goepfert, an associate editor at RHINO Poetry, is a Midwest poet and photographer. She has two published books—A Mind on Pain in 2015 and Tapping Roots 2018. Get Up Said the World will appear in 2020 from Červená Barva Press. Recent publications include Kudzu House, Stone Boat, Postcard Poems and Prose Magazine, Bluestem, Open: Journal of Arts and Letters, SWWIM, and Beloit Poetry Journal.