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Three Locusts

by Dustin Sipes

Weathered planks beneath bare feet, waterside.

Trees’ faces silhouetted

against 11:39-shaded purple-black. Chest

bare to the night, stand alone song:

Watch, spirits, prophets - watch.


They are nature’s impartial

grandfathers; threefold

sentinels, watching generations

pass their parade beneath a thousand blossom-white eyes.

Whisper, spirits, watchers - whisper.


In the air, chlorine moon,

I feel the sun’s burn slide off of my shoulder

beneath fingertips; mine? Yes,

whispers truth. Know,

whisper the prophets.


I choose the locust truth,

swallowing real. I choose

to fall asleep in my room with no walls

and awaken in the dead-sun morning



whisper the watchers: know better.

I know my father

will reprimand me if I am found out here

in the drowning night -

these spaces are no longer his, any more

than the reflection of a son in the pool

of his eyes is mine.


I know my arm

sare light with goosebumps; and feathers

are heavier when wet, but the water is as deep as the sky,

and a burgeoning something –

a wing? a scream? –

aches to burst from every pore.


I know the wind

has the vigor of a river and sorrow

enough to make the treetops speak –

syllable by syllable, leaves ripple a liquid

eardrum that hears only muffled distance. Palms like bark,

I make waves and envy it.

Know, whisper the prophets:

know better.

My hands are better suited for hammers

than hearts – see them? My feet have grown roots,

so I close one eye and reach

outward – am I touching now?

Know, whisper the watchers:

know better.

Is flying, then, the same as being sad –

in the sense that I am allowed to do neither?

There are feathers in the water, but they are not mine –

nothing waits in my skin, I think, but thorns.


Know, whisper the prophets:

know better.

They have watched my father,

too – proud, like his mother's mother. Like her,

he will pretend not to notice

things drowning.


My god is three half-dead tree

son my great-grandmother's former half-acre.

My hands are floating in a backyard pool. I smell chlorine

as they trace red, and white

tank-top lines to nestle under nervous armpits.

I shiver, and feel foolish.


Whisper, spirits, watchers – whisper.

In my room without walls, maybe I will hear you

muffled through the heavy glass window

with the rusted latch

above the brown paper of Johns Manville-brand fiberglass insulation.


Watch, spirits, prophets – watch.

See the boy who wrote poems in the dark

by the pool succumb

to Seroquel sleep, your voices

subsumed. To him,

it likely resembles being underwater.

Dustin Sipes' poetry utilizes heavy concrete imagery, aesthetically-based conceits, and carefully crafted line-breaking to saturate the poem with meaning. This particular poem is a retroactive account of a struggling younger self-finding spirituality - and turmoil - in water, and the voices of three old locust trees.

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February 2020

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