Fanny Howe

There is no Rescue Mission where it isn't freezing
from the need that created it. The lost children

distill to pure chemical. Where Good is called No-Tone
it's the one who cries out who doesn't get a coat.

The children fuse colors because they don't want to
separate. Daughters shoot off hydrants who cut

each other in the neck and gut, don't care
which one of them will end up later in surgery.

And drugged sons pretending to be costumes,
well, they're not welcome to comprehension either.

Why does a wild child confuse the moon
with a hole in his skin?

One was born soaked in gin.
His first sip was from a bottle of denial.

What can "leave me alone" mean after that?
The system is settled, dimensions fixed.

Another one's hand feels like a starfish.
Makes me hysterical like the word perestroika.

But they all dig the way the pepper is rosy in the vodka.
It's verbocity that creates jokers.

Brick and grit are the candy and frosting
where volunteers and teachers write cards that go:

"Donate books that say NOT and NO and poets
that say Um instead of Oh."

How do the children convert their troubles
into hip-hop? Dunno—but it's wonderful.

"Victory" © 1997, 1998 by Fanny Howe. Originally published in Hambone, and included in Howe's volume of poetry, One Crossed Out. Reprinted by permission of the author and by permission of the publisher, Graywolf Press.

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Original Image, "Expelled" © 2007 by
Emmanuela de Leon