Through the colored window, not stained glass,
but almost like it, the first broken legs
come out, fall to the ground, shatter
on the ground. Next, a back appears,
then another. They too settle to the ground,
crash, splinter, shatter, bend, break,
poke holes in the earth. Then an arm
flies free, the wing it’s always wanted
to be, until it too shatters
in the pile. Then a seat, another chair
almost complete, one that looks
like the desk you wrote on in seventh grade.
The chairs are piling up, the legs
sticking out like madness,
so many broken backs and arms:
a forty-foot fall from the top
of a pine tree, your brother’s tongue
nearly bitten through, the first pony
you rode scraping you off on a mass
of limbs, then breaking his leg
in an old posthole,
a knife fight on a train in Germany.
I want to say this is like Dachau,
the mass of steel-gray skeletons impaling
the air, barbed wire scraps woven round bone,
the black scar of burning what was left.
206 bones in the human body—
each one will break beneath a stone’s weight,
each one will grow around whatever is jabbed into it.
32,000 killed in 12 years,
an average of 8 a day,
one every three hours.
But who can say what it was like,
if it was anything like this terrible,
unspeakable defenestration of chairs.
Scott Owens‘ tenth collection of poetry, Shadows Trail Them Home, is due out from Clemson University Press this fall. His prior work has received awards from the Academy of American Poets, the Pushcart Prize, the North Carolina Writers’ Network, the North Carolina Poetry Society, and the Poetry Society of South Carolina. His poems have been in Georgia Review, North American Review, The Chattahoochee Review, Southern Poetry Review, and Poetry East among others. He is the founder of Poetry Hickory, editor of Wild Goose Poetry Review and 234, and vice president of the Poetry Council of North Carolina. Born and raised in Greenwood, SC, he teaches at Catawba Valley Community College in Hickory, NC.