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Poetry – Hannah Baker Saltmarsh

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Hannah Baker Saltmarsh


Love, Earth Mother


Do you know how many times I’ve
started over, without you, on my own?

Once, in a beetle’s floral gown, I scraped
together a semblance of a planet.

I breathe so quietly now like when after one of many
global extinctions, two-hundred-and-fifty-two million years ago,

you’d hear prehistoric, corseted dragonflies
make love mid-air, iridescently as orgasms go.

Leaf and root came back, feather and bone,
they always do. Even if a bulb’s upside down,

I shoot up canary yellows, lavender goblets when I want.
I go where I want to go. If you think I’m grateful the sky is

blue in plague, the way you love your azure seas,
you’re more fucked up than I thought. What is it

with you and Earth Day? My favorite child, a waterfowl, opened her wings
to twenty times her size like her ancestor, that actress

Quetzalcoatlus, the softest serpent, a waif with
downy, fluted wings. Before you were born,

I switched on the sea, helped a rhino morph
into a dolphin like dancing in the right shoes. I miss

as much as you do or your children do
the dinosaurs who drained into fossil gorges that cupped an asteroid.

If you’d have lived as long as I have, you’d see your vertebrae
in a leaf before spine was spine.

You can stop asking me how I’m doing since I was never
a concern before. You evolved: I’m evolving.

Wildfire, hurricane, derecho, hellfire heat,
whatever’s raging in me, you can’t know how I feel.

Hannah Baker Saltmarsh penned the poetry collection, Hysterical Water (University of Georgia P., 2021), and a critical book, Male Poets and the Agon of the Mother: Contexts in Confessional and Post-Confessional Poetry (Univ. of South Carolina P., 2019). She is the mother of three children, and lives in Iowa with her family.


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