Megan Burns

Hurricane Alter/ Altar


the Greeks and the Romans offered gifts of garlic to the gods, measure in years a handful of fingers out of destruction—a tableaux in golds: yellowed newspaper clippings, the sunflowers of St. Bernard, St. Expedite, dear eros of no land, in the antecedent of the day, agony of remembered winds—to breath, to hold, a slab: for a house, for thirteen candles, one for each moon, fertile wombed/ boathoused, thick memory let loose in safe enclosure, experience these scents/ as dreams

investigation of the fragment as opposed to true accounts, let loose into bayou, your songs: pennies, red stone, eyes folded back, scapula, the painted lucky bean, guitar pick, silver painted coconut, chipped Madonna, half eaten peach, two dollar bills, shingles, flooded photograph, un/tether this line

a prayerful ablation. change this season gently, take a form mimicking  water, a benediction that veils this morning gesture, go down to knee where belief is the outline, a silver backing or a sepia sunset, what you lay down, you give over completely, a single stringed instrument plays the closing of this ascension


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Bare bones gradually lose their greasiness. 

Unhook your tongue; there are so many ways to sink a ship, skin a rabbit and to never do either just proves your like most people giving a hand to the frowning abyss. I’m too tired for language, a gross system of abuse. You can send it up to Goodna, that’s a metaphor for putting away. It’s a movement that  gets done to people, like herding them into isolation boxes till the minutes scatter the brain into an American psyche that we can all get behind.

Your autopsy is my eyewitness.

Imagine how many people walk around with that one decision, the one that changed everything; the day a child disappeared or the moment before the falling over the lip of consciousness. I try to piece together what a memory of growing downward might inhabit. Possibly it would take up the room. A roomful of useless objects that can’t be let go or thrown away; this too is someone else’s childhood. Now you can watch it play out in half hour blocks, let us rearrange the horrific to fit the satellite feed on your DVR. Take the filthy children outside to play and pick them off the soles of your shoe as you make your way back in.

Waters change bodies at an alarming rate.

It’s when you’re asking about something that you know you’ve survived it.  The purpose of form is to establish distance from any other grouping. We can say here in this honeybee cell, the hexagonal shape spells the sanity of the worker. I’m doing what you taught me, and it’s a wound too beautiful to cover up, to generous to call a stranger. You can put a body in a pine box, but you can’t sell a pine box to put a body in; the removal of the corpse is closely regulated.

How do you give over your likeness?

Elegy is the newest rage; every writer is clamoring to pen down their latest abuses and losses. It’s no longer a secret that tragedy makes you more desirable. Everyone is trying on their shrouds, taking out disaster on credit, hoping to be caught naked and bruised when the other shoe drops. It’s worthwhile now to expose that dirty little secret, it’s neither dirty nor little and the idea of secrets is an anachronism. The poet fingers anachronisms and refuses to be nostalgic about what is cloak and dagger anyway.


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the photo is not a planet


plot is the appetite
carpet tacked for narrative
                                    if  I drank a slice of ocean view
                                                            if I flew red arrowed and graceful
                                                                                    if I rejected the page in which I live
study:  how to deal a hand in survival
to torque destruction                                    earliest sense to aural design and then to touch
we talk and then to make love                                                            a rise in the level of water
concrete that swims above the swamp
a swelling                        to be glued down as house on slab
(tell you what I know of slabs now since the storm & how a home becomes a pile of rubbish; the poured out cement of fifty years cracks like silly putty when the arm of the backhoe reaches out to peel it up)
            lifting a brick in the garden to discover a teeming world of nearly clear grubs writhing
slabs cover no life but lost roots: next door our house shakes as the pieces fall
this is how you dismantle in a day
rewrite the mapping of a neighborhood: where water leads  and leaves us
a lot turned and tamped down –the skin of decayed metal fencing
for eyes to see the bony structures of personality (r.wright)
all life spins on that first inhale to the last, let go



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Megan Burns has a MFA from Naropa University and edits the poetry magazine, Solid Quarter. She has been most recently published in Jacket Magazine, Callaloo, New Laurel Review, YAWP Journal, and the Big Bridge New Orleans Anthology. Her poetry and prose reviews have been published in Tarpaulin Sky, Gently Read Lit, Big Bridge, and Rain Taxi. Her book Memorial + Sight Lines was published in 2008 by Lavender Ink. She has two chapbooks, Frida Kahlo: I am the poem (2004) and Framing a Song (2010) from Trembling Pillow Press.  She lives in New Orleans where she and her husband, poet Dave Brinks, run the weekly 17 Poets! reading series.



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