The Ancient Modern

The Old Answers  /  Joshua Alan Sturgill

             When the Monsters migrate
grazing slow and heavy overhead
through forests of the Old Answers, 
sap from wounded stems 
spills down, spattering 
the paint and plaster of our cities 
with glints of the sky.

            And our children, 
their attention revived by hoofbeats 
of thunder, lift their ivory lattices, 
eyes wide and limbs pale, and ask 
Who makes the taste of rain?  
What language does the Moon speak?  
Where does skin for clothing come from, 
and the bone for toys?  But since

            we fear our children
might see monsters or find the Sun
in shining puddles, we read to them 
from the dung-paper picture books
which contain The Ceremony of Drought.
We chant the litanies and hymns;
we tell the stories Once upon a time 
there was a Noise and It’s from stones 
the leather and the paper grow.

           We show the children
how the mountains are dissected,
how rivers of ideas are set
in concrete courses.  Old Answers, 
weren’t they lovely? we say, but 
New Surmisings give us everything 
we use. As we close the lattices
to make night again, 

we sing our children 
a Ceremonial Rhyme to help them fall
…skies deceive us; light has lied.  
Dust must daily be applied.
What are monsters?  What are moons?
Games for rainy afternoons…
with handfuls of earth we dull the sap
shimmering on the horn tiles 
of our doorsteps, and
pray the monsters
soon depart

All poetry and supplementary material: copyright 2021 by Joshua Alan Sturgill. All rights reserved.

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