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  • Water Crisis, and: The Last Puppet, and: Report from the Island
  • Carolyn Forché (bio)

Water Crisis

They have cut off the water in the sinking metropolis.Do not wash clothes! Bathe only with small buckets!

Meanwhile, cisterns on the roofs of the rich send itsinging through the pipes of the better houses.

There is the sound of applause: it is the clap of wingsjust before doves enter the darkness of the dovecote.

Then a quiet comes. The sirens die down. Security gatesslam shut. It is like night. We are waiting to breathe again.

The gamecocks are forced to fight with knives taped to their feet.This is illegal. So is everything else and there is never enough.

The logs are fed little by little into the mouths of the clay ovens.Many songbirds have been roasted by the heavens.

Motor scooters flock through the streets, a murmuration.Crossing like starlings the skies. It is a matter of thirst.

They transport the cocks in baskets covered by plastic bags—their entire lives tethered to the ground, trapped in wicker.

Until they are angry enough. Roof to roof in the conclaves,cistern to cold cistern. They have seen to it.

The rich will have what they want. Is this a relief?The last cloud is empty. The first death reason enough. [End Page 23]

The Last Puppet

Moonlight taps on the puppet maker's hut, the tip of a brushtouching hide, light falling into water from an egret's wings

like tears on glass. Stones dusted with ash. Taps as if someone were there,attempting to wake us up. A bell ringing in a tomb of cloud.

This debris is the puppet maker's house, taken by a sudden wind.A storm like the future, filled with pigs, trees, cars, and something

no one should wish to see. Fires on the seafloor. Burned weather.The once-soft air embalmed in salt. As if God said it.

They kill the snake, drain its blood into a glass of liquoralong with its still-beating heart. Not everyone does this.

You drink it, and later you chew and chew the strong muscle of snake.In another place, the blood of fruit bats is given without the heart.

No one knows the difference this makes.

Souls have their own world. The corpse its bone cage.Nothing but fire everywhere the fire finds air.

There are no hides left, this is the last puppet.The puppet maker lifts it to the light and has it speak

a language it will never speak again, its shadow finding the shadowon the wall of no one else. Then he puts a last song in its mouth.

Souls have their own world. They are the descendants of clouds.Take this puppet to America. Hold it to the light. [End Page 24]

Report from the Island

Sea washes the sands in a frill of salt and a yes sound.We lie beneath palms, under the star constellations

of the global south: a cross, a sword pointing upward.Through frangipani trees, a light wind. Bats foraging.

Foreigners smoke the bats out by burning coconuts,calling this the bat problem. Or they set out poisonous fruit.

The gecko hides under a banana leaf. So far nothing is said.A gecko mistaken for a bird that sings in the night.

It is no bird. A healer blows smoke into the wound.Sees through flesh to a bone once broken.

In the sea, they say, there is an island made of bottles and other trash.Plastic bags become clouds and the air a place for opportunistic birds.

One and a half million plastic pounds makes its way there every hour.The pellets are eggs to the seabirds and the bags, jellyfish to the turtle.

So it is with diapers, shampoo, razors and snack wrappers, soda ringsand six-pack holders. Even the sacks to carry it all home flow to the sea.

Wind has lofted the water into a distant city according to news reports:most of that city submerged now, with fish in the streets.

It is no bird. The man hasn't sold any of his carved dolphins...


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pp. 23-26
Launched on MUSE
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