Good Boys and Girls Look Away from Death

"Elegy with New England Roadkill" and "Photo Op at Antelope Canyon," two poems by Sarah Ghazal Ali

Good Boys and Girls Look Away from Death

Elegy with New England Roadkill

In good towns, good houses mourn what dies 
outside by closing windows. 

Bullfrog caught in a mower black-red. Driveway 
chalk gray-red. Tire-tracked doe red-red. 

Under a sycamore my throat whirls from pity to 
nausea. The suburban sky does nothing, sees less. 

Another small chest deflates at the edge of my vision 
before gas tank heaves & gut tries to follow. 

The angel on my left shoulder finds something of 
interest in the windshield blur of road then red, 

body then blood. He bites my ear, pulls hard 
my lashes. Look, he insists, where I point. 

Where shells split. Where color leaks. Look, he 
demands. My own palms spangled with crime. 

He walks across my blades & drags a fleshy bone 
behind him. In lurid dreams I resurrect them all, 

or they refuse to leave, guilt dressed as clemency. 
A frog or my fingers, the blade always a blade. 

In good towns, good children collapse 
snake holes, heel away ant hills for sport. 

Above us, a grey-necked warbler shrieks & shrieks, 
trills a humdrum dirge for these ordinary deaths. 

I drive on, bound by time. He sings, knitted 
to his perch on a telephone wire, eyes 

fixed to each body I blur past, blooming car 
after car like poppies on pool water, red.


Photo Op at Antelope Canyon

Where light passes through 
Where light is most mercurial 
Where light flees the ingress of deeper water 
Where light works best on an iPhone, vivid warm 
Where light, a certain slant of hibernal Light, oppresses 
Where light praises the canyon of water-whipped stone 
Where light fails to detect the mercury in nearby water 
Where light leadens in my arms, a crowd forming Where 
light, poisoned, rasps of the mercury in the water Where 
light paints the evening wall & I take 
          an expected photograph 
Where light probes my polluted skin 
Where light harbingers a kiss or cancer 
Where light illumes the days of 
          the dictator, actor, & poet 
Where light or night triumphs 
Where lighght 
Where light boasts an illustrious vocabulary 
Where light brightens the graves of those righteous 
Where light flees from the mercury in the water 
Where light comes to coax color from my eyes 
Where light is a technology that allows looking 
                    to control looking 
What light shows me & I look away 
Where the light of God is the same light that allowed mercury 
          in the water 
Where light, what light 
          is liable 

          —is light liable 
          for mercury, the water? 
          Before the light flees I take 
          a photograph, 
cluck, what a shame, all that mercury in the water.

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