Siete Dolores de Nuestra Señora
By Fiona Chamness
Lay down stones for a street like all streets mortared in red sweat
and name it Seven Maladies of Our Lady, kick crown
and severed skull down the alley and name the alley Head
of the King Don Pedro, follow one crawling road downward
from Pious Schools to Image, Image to Spider, Spider
to Alfonso III. Cross it with a street called Serpents, one
called Let Them Dance. Name them after true things, not like at home,
where Elm and Oak are what might have grown before the houses
with their tin pockets bucked and broke, where enterprise adopts
sections of highway for maintenance government cannot
afford, and reminds us to give thanks. Where seventy towns
which should be called Lynchville are not, two hundred towns, instead
pitching brick under the surnames of families who ordered
the deeds done, who signed the deeds and ordered spun threads which stretch
to mills in cities never known as Furnaceburg, never
known as Handmangler, Smoke Valley or Child’s Wages Junction.
Where the head of the business is the head of a family
whose legs are fused and whose purses are stuffed with fingernails,
and never the King’s head, and never rolls down the pavement,
and even the most pious of schools cannot help but drain
their students dry, being mortared in bone, being mortared
in ash. Here I translate maps. Across an ocean my friends
sit in tents. They recite dreaming the thousand maladies
Our Lady Liberty should redress, re-dress themselves, for
cold, the long haul, for the batons and fumes of the police.
They report a fundamental altering of spirit.
That they speak and breathe differently, sleep differently, under
the canvas, head to head with the threatening images
beneath the images. The serpents of commerce are not
basilisks, wish though they might, and have not turned them to stone.
I miss my friends. The ones in tents. The ones in their houses,
teaching in the street, writing in the dark, making bargains,
leveraging their hope for a world needled from its coma
against a poison no one’s blood by now is clean of, snake
or spider, fixed to our backs, toxin through our web of streets.
I am tired of talking about names and the power
of names, but it’s the only thing I’ve ever talked about,
so here we go again, lips to the topography, eyes
to the signs, teeth in the guidebook, designing a language
to write letters home in, where park means skin, interstate means
vein, collective is closer to sympathetic: Dear
Aimée, there’s a collective crashing on the interstate
below my park; Dear Jared, everything we’ve built is built
on skin, the veins ferry the venom to every corner
of the infrastructure; Dear Maggie; Dear Pat; Dear Lena;
Dear David; dear you, I am not given much to prayer,
but astonished in the face of what is possible: go
with god, or alone, or with each other, follow the road
of seven pains, lay down stones, let them dance, reshape our home.
Fiona Chamness is a poet and songwriter from Ann Arbor, MI.