Error Messages Arrive in Batches By Devon Miller-Duggan

Error Messages Arrive in Batches

Neither prayers nor breadcrumbs can smooth scars.
Neither wasps nor tear gas can build your house.
Neither blue light nor breath can fill your lungs.

I read page after page of plague,
the catalog of horrors:
You will not come back as yourself if they have
dropped you into dark where imprecise machines
force oxygen into your lungs, your blood.
No one stopped the whips in unclean hands;
no one took the guns from unclean hands;
no one tore down the butcher-hooks
or solved the knots that grew from trees.

I know the air itself
can lie, and will.
I pray without my hands.
I pray no prayer.
I touch no others’ hands, nor
my own face. The birds-beak masks will protect
no more than etiquette or peace extended to a uniform.

No thing protects you from
what blood of your blood carried into you, or the air, from
your own skin, from bloodlines running
backwards from invaders, colonizers, viruses, or sin,
from their arrivals and their rapes.

The nosegay in my pocket only marks me
as the next machine to kill or die.
The sanitizer for my hands I carry everywhere only marks me
as the next machine to try to live, or not to kill.

They will wind me in a miles-long scarf,
suspend my cocooned, birthless body from a tree
and let the careless sky erase my words,
though wind will turn what once was me—
revolution after revolution—
I will never find the wings to fly toward.
Confession is a razor across gut strings—
music for no one but crows.

By Devon Miller-Duggan


Devon Miller-Duggan has published poems in Rattle, Margie, The Antioch Review, Gargoyle, Massachusetts Review, and Spillway. She teaches Poetry Writing at the University of Delaware. Her books include Pinning the Bird to the Wall (Tres Chicas Books, 2008), Alphabet Year, (Wipf & Stock, 2017), The Slow Salute, Lithic Press Chapbook Competition Winner, 2018). She also directs the Poets’ Corner Reading Series, a joint project of the English Dept. of UD and St. Thomas’s Episcopal Church in which poets read (mostly) their favorite poems by other poets—a cross between Poetry Outreach and Story Hour for grown-ups

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