You were born sick
the preacher says, and I can’t help but notice
he doesn’t include himself in the distinction.
I assume he was born well, the apple
among the snakes.

It wouldn’t make me feel better
if he said we were all born sick. That sounds
rather final and depressing, like there’s little hope
of anyone digging out. Maybe that’s how it is.
We carry shovels.

We’re dressed in lies and illusions,
our truest selves shadowed under elephant clouds.
And what about those elephants, white or pink or gray,
and the ostriches in the same field—
wide body, little head,

but a neck that could break your arm?
Does it matter that entire species are nearly extinct,
while snakes multiply like rabbits in the dark
and slimy underneath, the green moss
spiky as Astroturf?

Not that Astroturf is mossy,
but it can be slippery when wet, like the preacher’s
long neck and dewy face, the sweat rings under
his arms, his voice heavy with emotion—sick, born sick, too sick—
slapping our faces a final judgment

until we are swollen like the sky.
A smothering blue-black spills its guts
as the preacher’s Adam’s apple bobs damnation,
the words pounding like elephants
or ostriches, or just plain rain.

Sandy Coomer is a poet, mixed media artist, and endurance athlete. Her poetry has most recently been published in Apeiron Review, Red River Review, and Pilcrow & Dagger. Her poetry chapbook, Continuum, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2012. Her second collection, The Presence of Absence, won the 2014 Janice Keck Literary Award for Poetry. She lives in Brentwood, TN, where she regularly trains for and races in triathlons.

gray-white arrow