The National Poetry Review

Martha Silano


If I type in I float down the Seine like a lunatic duck,
click FRENCH, she will say Je flotte dans sur la Seine

comme un canard fou, which sounds much better, makes me laugh
like a goat because je ris comme un chevre, and if the goat’s laughing

from atop an abandoned Maytag, if these are metal-munching goats?
Well, cesont de chevres grignotant des metaux (you get the rest). This woman

speaking a language I can’t, laughter like Windex, an enormous bottle
of Mr. Clean making vivid that summer I spent in Dubois, Idaho, population

206, which of course they pronounced do-BOYCE. Edge where the town
disappeared into horned larks, salt brush, tumbleweed. Everyone

not knowing what the answer would be, our consummate lack of power,
which was the laughter I did not have: I laugh/je ris, because the goats

at the dump grazed atop rusting GEs, because the owner of the opposite
of stupid beasts had everything, believed he had less than a passel

of munchers metalliques—which wasn’t a bit funny, nor were the ten-hour
days in the cab of a puke green US Forest Service rig, especially amidst

steer-trampled Fescue and Timothy. Days my boss warned we’d be met
at the door with the barrel of a 22. Good day! How’s it going? Schooled

in the small talk of Marlboro men, Pepsi-can tossers while red-tails
circled cloudless afternoons, where all that creepeth creeped

through that lonely stretch of I-15, including Fey, a cowgirl determined
to be fresh as a cooler-ed Mountain Dew, though not much in the way

of guffaw, not much love between guvmet and those who call this land
their own. Which is, I’m sure, why it feels so good to laugh at une ribambelle

de chevres grignotant de metaux, especially when I learned we charge almost
nothing for the waterholes, for the overgrazed range, for timber sales, falling

further into debt the moment the leveler touches the dusty ground,
The last laugh, the laughing stock, o kings and queens of the junkyard:

Je suis le bouc. Je suis le vague sauvage.

MARTHA SILANO is the author of four books of poetry, including The Little Office of the Immaculate Conception and Reckless Lovely (both from Saturnalia Books). She also co-edited, with Kelli Russell Agodon, The Daily Poet: Day-By-Day Prompts For Your Writing Practice (Two Sylvias Press 2013). Her poems have appeared in Poetry, Paris Review, American Poetry Review, Orion, and The Best American Poetry 2009, among others. Martha edits Crab Creek Review and teaches at Bellevue College.