Their Country Within Me

Once again, they are hungry
and limping along east Africa’s coast
like gazelles with injured hooves.

Brush the ochre sand away
from their faces and, if I am honest,
the blank eyes that stare

resemble my own and their country
lies deep within me like forgotten history.
Each dirt-filled path they take

leads to evaporating rivers. Still
and still, even the most listless ones
among them continue to pray,

bending down on their bony knees
and empty stomachs, clutching
that soft nothingness between their hands,

which when open dig simple graves
in the parched earth. And in my heart,
each mound explodes like a landmine.



When they ambushed her,
They did not care about her
Two goodly cubs that waited
Where she had left them—
Safe in a thick part of the forest
That had not yet been felled
Or destroyed by wildfires
Caused by climatic heat.
The siblings huddled in fear

And pressed their noses
Into each other’s fur for solace,
Trusting the familial scent.

When she rose in defense
As any parent would,
As my own mother had done
Many times when she was alive,
They shot her for sport—
In a man’s game or a woman’s.
Later, over beer and vodka,

Belches and hiccups, they asked
A rhetorical “Who cares?”

But all of nature responded—
Canyons and caves echoed,
Trees trembled, birds sung dirges
At dusk and the wind hummed.
When at last she lay still
And her blood seeped into our
Memory, we whom they called
Hyper-empathetic animal
Lovers and ef’ing tree huggers
Spoke out even as they
Threatened to shoot us down.

Copyright (C) 2014 by Peggy Ann Tartt.
All rights, including electronic, are reserved by the author.

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Peggy ann tartt

Peggy Ann Tartt is recipient of a 2013 NoMAA Creative Grant Program/ JPMorgan Chase Founder & Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Dev. Corp. and a Money for Women/ Barbara Deming Memorial Fund grant. She received the Arts & Letters Prize in Poetry and the Naomi Long Madgett Poetry Award. She authored the poetry book Among Bones (Lotus Press 2002) and chapbook Firestarters (Mouthfeel Press 2014). She has contributed poetry to many literary publications, including Coal Hill Review, Hospital Drive, Margie Review, Bryant Literary Review, Poem, Field, Prairie Schooner, and Poetry South.A native New Yorker, she holds an MFA from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. She reads her poems for www.Eco-Poetry at POETS HOUSE on Sept. 26th at 7PM, 2014. Free admission. All welcome to the OPEN MIC. Sign up at 6:45 PM. 10 River Tr. at Murray St. {Click here.}