Saturday, April 27, 2013

Four Poems by Karla Linn Merrifield

Happenstance: Visceral Being

On the day Amazon bees swarmed & swarmed—
hundreds? thousands?—out of the rainforest,
up my sleeves, under my collar, & into my damp hair,
the latent Homo erectus in my ancestral genes
dictated: urge to flee, adrenalin surge,
& the primal screams programmed
into my evolutionary survival equipment.
Black-bodied, black-winged, in numbers
sufficient to blacken the equatorial sun,
they attacked, so it seemed, buzzing, buzzing
to lap perspiration, sip tears, crawl, & creep
all over scalp, throat, breasts, intent
upon licking me alive, so I believed.
But, no, those Meliponinae are members
of a stingless, ergo harmless family
of neotropical apians, merely sweat bees.

But double helix & basic instinct insist:
The horror, the horror is the swarm, the swarm.

Defeat of the Amazon

I met the sauna primeval:
95 hot degrees of it,
95 degrees humidity,
clothes sodden from step one,
each footfall farther
a conscious caution
against the poison promises
of wasps, bees, those inch-
long bullet ants.
I tramped a mere two miles
but imagine mine
more Bataan Death March,
Brazilian-style, on a trail
of sweat, near tears, worn down
by a misery of fear
amid the fecund trees of thorns.



I remain on the Nile,
the blue Nile fringed in green
where water buffalo graze
and donkeys race their masters,
legs akimbo, chasing stray goats.
Around the bend, a tethered camel,
farther upstream, sheepdogs and brown cattle..

North of Luxor, south of Dendara,
I remain on the Nile,
where small towns flank both muddy banks;
in a duel of voices the dual imans
utter their prayers, broadcast on loudspeakers
at 3 p.m., three seconds out of synch.
Time skips a beat in the heart of Islam.

Floating through the kingdom
of herons and egrets and kingfishers,
I remain on the Nile.
Children wave from the sugar cane fields.
Fishermen toss their nets, retrieve them, toss.
Women wash their veils on the rocks.
Boys gnash dates, fire pits from slingshots.

Arriving at last almost to the Aswan High Dam,
though the Nubian city, its desert of tombs, grow dim
and the waters rise frenzied in an evening sandstorm,
I remain on the Nile.With a felucca as our perch,
we snare the wind: no minarets in view;
the temple is obscured. Not a colossus in sight.
There is only the great river, only us, the gods.


I remain on the Nile,
becoming crocodile,
becoming iconic.
For immortal
papyrus and
reed of Sheshat,
I remain on the Nile
to write her story.
O, guardian,
I remain on the Nile.
                      --for Roger M. Weir
Night is a rarer place
on Amazon rivers:
mirror of Mars,
of moon,
of the Milky Way.
Around a bend sleep
solitary three-toed sloths
in trees of dreams.
Mystery throbs in throats
of gladiator frogs,
Earth’s primal drumbeats.
Keeping the ceaseless vigil of invisibility,
spectacled caimans watch
wide-eyed from deep time
in flooded forests.
The mind of darkness falls
prey to imagination.
Long-nosed bats begin to feed.
Karla Linn Merrifield recently received the Dr. Sherwin Howard Award for the best poetry published in Weber - The Contemporary West in 2012. A seven-time Pushcart-Prize nominee and National Park Artist-in-Residence, she has had 300+ poems appear in dozens of journals and anthologies. She has nine books to her credit, the newest of which are Lithic Scatter and Other Poems (Heartlink) and The Ice Decides: Poems of Antarctica (Finishing Line Press). Forthcoming from Salmon Poetry is Athabaskan Fractal and Other Poems of the Far North, and Attaining Canopy: Amazon Poems (FootHills Publishing). Her Godwit: Poems of Canada. (FootHills) received the 2009 Eiseman Award for Poetry. She is assistant editor and poetry book reviewer for The Centrifugal Eye ( Visit her blog, Vagabond Poet, at

No comments:

Post a Comment