The latest excerpt in our Florida Lit Mag series highlights a poem from 805 Lit + Art, which publishes debut and emerging writers, poets, and artists in a quarterly, online journal. They are run out of the Manatee County Public Library System and, just this year, won a Florida Library Association Innovation Award. They’ve also been highlighted in Poets and Writers, and were runners up for Best Local Literary Journal in Creative Loafing Tampa Bay. If you haven’t heard of them yet, now’s the time to learn more, and, if you’re a writer, to send them your best work!
These days we still don’t stop for death.
Instead, we pass by and outside the window
lining the suburban boulevard one tree gleams
in the morning sun—the trunk wound tight in tinsel.
This week earthquake hands find their epicenter
and staple letters to the bark from a mother pushing
old baby strollers stuffed with windmills
through the weeds to dress her son’s killer
in the ribbons of her regret.
On a bridge up-state, chained
to the chipped guard rail stands a bicycle
spray-painted in white with rust peeking through the gears.
The school made sure to have an anti-bullying assembly
after the body was pulled up, and the whole class weaved
wildflowers through the spokes and signed the frame in black ink:
we should have paid more attention
Atop dunes overlooking the coast
old palm branches, drift wood and incomplete
sand dollars huddle in circles. Bottles of liquor
litter the brush as landmarks guiding wayward
surfers back to their bonfires. Every year the row
of baseball hats and dog tags grow along the edge
and every morning the burial begins with the morning
breeze until only a jagged Aerosmith record sticks
out proudly from the dirt. Some served tours overseas
and yet they drowned in the water of home.
These technicolor shrines we make
with hindsight hands crystallize on curbs—
bloom in front of women’s clinics and mosques;
universities and concert halls. Only after the stories
run and the cameras leave do we press the wilted
memorial flowers into compost. Only then,
are the posters of weather-rippled faces folded
gingerly by late-night jumpsuits who clean
the wound and stitch up our streets with garbage bags.
Next year we’ll find ourselves standing by
the kitchen window and we’ll overhear it
on the TV in the other room
happening somewhere else:
a cara guna bottle
a wavea notean epidemic
of teeth sunk in,
maybe next time
we will all dare more
and look the world in the eye to scream for these names that should have known more breath