|Neli Moody is a writer and teacher at San Jose State University in the English Department. Her book, After Alatmira: Poems by Neli Moody, was published in 2006 by Ishmael Reed Publishing Company. Her poems have appeared in such publications as Reed Magazine, Konch Magazine, Brick and Mortar Review, and Reverie. Her critical work, “A Syntax of Stones: Pre-Text, Edifice, and the Sacred Space in Richard Berengarten’s ‘Avebury’” was published by Salt Publishing in the UK in 2011 in the Salt Companion to Richard Berengarten. She is currently working on a children’s fantasy novel. Pleasures include: dancing (Polynesian), singing, cooking, being a grandmother, walking and anything on the water.
Hog capital, city of machine builders, haven of runaway slaves,
Prospers on the Union side of the Roebling Bridge,
Sister to the Hudson span. Rises on seven hills, green
Legacy of glaciers that paused, then halted here. Beautiful
Ohio esses between the city and Kentucky.
That view of the city, I recall, and how the emerald cascaded down
To the water from every hill. Adams, Auburn, Price, Vine St.
Walnut, College, Fairmount. An hour away,
The Adena snake sinewed, largest effigy mound in the world,
An egg in its mouth, three coils of tail at the end. One autumn,
My little daughter and I sat at Brush Creek,
The air full of spice, the leaves turned to amber.
It seemed that the blue shadows of glaciers rose
And ancient peoples burying what they had carried,
Shaped, smoothed, lost. It seemed the lady of Munich,
“The Genius of Water,” generosity flowing
From her bronze hands in the center of the city
Had roots in every stream, this one, the river,
And German immigrants, Italians, former slaves,
Tanners and butchers might drink their fill.
I was born there, conjured out of the same clay
That made the pots, the tools, the bridge, the city.
Now, writing from the Golden State, enamored
Of the blue Pacific, and miles below the Golden Gate,
I think of Cincinnati, all I am, all I was, things buried,
Things uncovered, and what I left behind.
Gold is a mighty seducer. Diamonds hold hostage a thousand
Suns. The moon hoards silver. Sorrow wide as the river runs.
Blood purchase my sister, my brother, a price too dear. Ebony
trunks, heartwood thump, grief in the tse tse’s hum. Hear? Ivory
Coast brambled with bones and ghosts, clatter, moan. Oshun
propped on a darkwood cane, a lady in silk vined with disease waits,
belly putrid as the ships that bob across the sea, snarling sails,
gales of the Middle Passage, Desire, Hope, Wanderer bound
for Amerika “Done sold myself” and the children
are thrown into the sea for weeping
first mate’s eyes sweeping the horizon,
pinch in his spine, pinch
of Ananzi, the stench of oppression snakes up the hold
her white handkerchief flutters away,
gold band, heart in brine of tears
At the lunar eclipse,
slave chains slip like kelp, slip away, shackles melt like wax,
captains turn to sand, merchants are fattened on the pages of Bibles
and set aflame, and shamed complicit kin are served to sharks
on platters made of pearls.
At the top of the world, there is only down. Fallen
Climbers, lost footing. Everest collects bodies,
Leaves them as a warning, “There are forces so
Monumental, they can steal a man’s breath, shred
A person’s will to live into a thousand ribbons of colored silk
And cast them into the fog.” Green boots against the snow
A shrill tune on a bone flute, the knife edges of the mountain
Scrap the sky, Titans, too old to care.
Men and women are scattered in the snow and mantic clouds divining
Where the thin air is a vice and promise of immortality, one way
Or another. Where does the soul flee when the only path is down?
Above the summit, souls bump against the dome of Earth frozen
In wonder, puffs of breath issuing from their open mouths tinging
Like tiny bells.