the taste of drought.
Dry dust coating the inside of your nose
and throat. Makes your eyes tear.
You wish people would stand still
not raise the powdery dirt, but when
eight hundred and fifty priests
are frenzied and dancing and cutting
themselves so that the red blobs
fall onto dry soil
that quickly soaks up the blood,
wishes don’t mean a thing.
It’s always the crazy men
with wild hair a bird could nest in,
who start things like this. They smell
like a barnyard, carry a staff and talk
too loud. They are poets and politicians
writing and talking, and cocksure
they know more than anyone else and you
want to scream Shut up!
They drench altars till the sand turns to mud
and you’re standing knee-deep in wormy earth.
Then, when you are wet enough
and your clothes stick like glue, you hear
the sizzle and crack,
the kind of sound that zaps
a mopped head. You cringe
and grab a faceful of ground.
shouting down fire, singeing off
your whiskers and eyebrows,
stinging your arms
while the blast of fire
makes the ground tremble.
Now all the children here
will forever fear
men with wild, tangled hair.
Ann Thornfield-Long, a co-author of Tennessee Women of Vision and Courage (Crawford and Smiley, 2013), has published poetry in Artemis, Silver Blade, The Linnet’s Wings, Riddled with Arrows, Quill and Parchment, and other publications. She has received Rhysling, Pushcart and Best of the Net nominations. She lives in East Tennessee.
Image Credit: Various elements are credited to this composite: orange abstract background (Shristi—the Universe), flow of crows/single crow (clipartkey.com), altar of sacrifice (lightupnations), adjustment to the prophet’s hair with an image of flowing hair (clipartmag.com), and the lightning bolt (pinterest).