December 1861: Everyone I Know is Dead

by Andrew Payton

Laguna Ojo de Liebre, Mexico

The long night
sinks to its waist in sand–
men rinse flensing knives
as skeletons lift limbs

in praise of sunrise.
In the jowls and beaks
of coyote and buzzard
it is hard to think myself

flesh; spit like fetid
seawater. A pricked earth–
Eye of the Jack Rabbit Lagoon–
an open wound from bird-view.

As the tides reorient
the water goes red
with my blood,
and I have oceans.

Charles Scammon, American,
commanding the barque Ocean Bird,
sails his whalemen south. The sun
a boiled eyeball: they eat so much

yet so much spoils.
The sea keeps its cemetery
at the edge of continents.
The wind rolls the sky

and I shake free of bone.
Teeth won’t pick clean.
Even if you spoke my language,
all I’d have to do is sing.


About the Author

Andrew Payton is a Maryland native and MFA candidate in Creative Writing and Environment at Iowa State University. His work is featured in recent or forthcoming issues of The Greensboro Review, Bayou Magazine, Fourth River, Notre Dame Review, and won the 2013 James Hearst Poetry Prize at North American Review.