2011 winter poetry damnatio

by Michael Meyerhofer

How much cleaner was the sky
before the last laughing owl
turned up slap-stiff in New Zealand,
alongside words like leeftail
which meant to be in great demand,
an irony lost on the last dinosaur
who tried in vain to drink
from a steaming lake, teeth
weeping into its own reflection.
If suffering breeds wisdom,
we might have found salvation
in a lost syllable of Kwadi,
the exhale of that last cry pansy,
the last Roman surgeon
to use a bone lever on a slave
who fell from a twine-wrapped ladder
that OSHA would never condone.
I want to believe we are all
just rough drafts of the same assignment,
a holy exercise in translation.
I want to believe in the grace
of the last person to use a cecograph—
which I just read was a device
to help blind people write,
rendered obsolete by what now
yields nothing but spam porn
when I search for images of cecograph,
its face lost like the dear papyrus
torn from the only copies of Sappho,
the Nag Hammadi scrolls
accidentally burned by farmers
who needed warmth, after all,
more than that 1787 Chateau Lafite
bottled by Thomas Jefferson
(spoiled when lamp-heat melted the cork)
or one's chances to saddle
eohippus, the dawn horse,
smaller than a wild dog.
Meaning we would have to be
smaller still than those Palau pygmies
who surrendered size for spears
as lack of food shrunk
their brains, the same way
hunger shrunk the gray muscles
of all those elephants who died
with tusks barely matching
the height of lions' teeth.
Going back to Rome, it's said
that the names of let-downs
could be struck from remembrance,
no busts or faces on coins,
not even a mention at family
reunions over bowls of figs and oil,
all they'd done simply
forgotten, like the use of yelve—
those dung-forks used for centuries
to facilitate regrowth,
dark waste yielding plants
with lungfuls of water and light.

About the Author

Michael Meyerhofer's second book, Blue Collar Eulogies, was published by Steel Toe Books. His first, Leaving Iowa, won the Liam Rector First Book Award. He has also won the Marjorie J. Wilson Best Poem Contest, the James Wright Poetry Award, the Laureate Prize, the Annie Finch Prize for Poetry, and four chapbook prizes. His work has appeared in Ploughshares, North American Review, Arts & Letters, River Styx, Quick Fiction and other journals, and can be read online at www.troublewithhammers.com.

Maintained or neglected, familiar or foreign, well-worn or wild, roadways inform our decisions and identities. Their geographies direct the movement
of our lives and sketch the cartography of our stories. In this spirit, 322 Review publishes provocative emerging and established artists whose fiction,
creative nonfiction, poetry, and mixed media artwork wander the paths of human experience. A nonprofit literary journal conceived
and operated by former Rowan University graduate students, 322 Review is based in Southern New Jersey.