Poetry at Sangam




Doris, on the day before the beach trip to the island,
Opened her eyes as the orange sun pressed
Through the worn-down horizon. Why she woke as her
Folks still slept was simple: summer had come and school was out.

Young Doris drew off her dream-cloths and dressed in a drunken stupor.
Excitement teemed from her big teeth: it was a good time to collect tortoises.
She picked the side porch to get to the peaceful backyard,
Where she could hike the grassy hill up to her wooded heaven at the top.

The trees that towered above like an infinite teepee for the wildlife
That roamed there served her requisite for raw enjoyment quite well.
She could slide out the side porch quietly, and so, she stepped down
Onto its fake grass and flew passed trinkets found for the room’s theme.

There were large sea-homes lounging on the tables; their leaf-sized sisters
Displayed in baskets and glass bowls beside seabirds and dirty ashtrays.
She freed the frail side door from its night watch and forced it open,
Then darted passed the deep green house built for the dog, now dead.

The goal was to gain some shell-backed reptiles and give them some grief
By sticking them in a one-stone-high round pit until she stopped the torture.
She was always there for hours, and only stopped when called home.
She didn’t know as she knelt down to the dirt that she’d be needed pretty soon.

She found a baby one basking in the early light and lifted it by its round back,
Placed it in her palm and poked at its small puny tail, rubbed the top
Of its head, halfway reclined in its hard house.
The tortoise tinkled on her, so she set it in the torture pit and went to gather more.

Hardly a half-hour later, she couldn’t help but get up when her father called.
She moseyed into the house and moped. Her father merrily told her the day’s plan:
She and her brother Bob were both going with him to his boring office.
The tortoises would have to wait another time; she was told to get breakfast.

(Excerpt from the book-length poem Principles of Belonging.)