national anthology of the best undergraduate writing 2014

Once the Ground

Mary Alice Stewart  • 
Bennington College

Once the ground. Once the ground, I opened. O Sillies,
once the ground & its metal beast of quick light. Once I was a rooted
thing of blood, another organ of ground, my belly
full of happening & green. When green
broke open half-digested into blood, the pieces left of me berried
against asphalt ground. Stomach opened to sky, face torn from bone. I turned roadkill
once & there I stayed, for the metal beast does not tinker with life once it’s gone.
(Death goes—QuietFlashGashGushOpeningQuiet) Roadkilling
feeds a hungry, metal beast—a Sillies
beast who opens things to rot on hard ground, leaving a berried
blood to evaporate in the beast’s own air. I exoskeleton wish often but my soft rooted
in animal body—a body forever chasing the vanishing green.
I, an open belly,
am house of many. I, an open belly, am full of blood & yowls & scruff & a roadkill dream—
Once the ground. Once green.
Once bodies unopened. Once decay in the place where seedlings grow. O but Sillies,
the metal beasts are at work uprooting
our green with their great machines. O Sillies, we know to run fast for green,
fast against the berried
ground of ghosts. A surface berried
with rot like jewels. A cyclic blood. If you are not fast enough, Sillies, remember your belly
of yowls—we are a voice that is always yowling. Rooted
in our blood is a fight that doesn’t go cold when roadkilled—
when bellies lie fallow on asphalt ground like smalls of water on spider webs.
O Sillies,
our bodies of green
are breakable flesh. The green
is vanishing and we, Sillies, are too—our parts berried
across the landscape of the hungriest beasts.
Who has been the Sillies, Sillies?
Once the ground, I unopened. Once the ground, the infinite belly
of Earth. Once the ground, once I babies. Babies of mine—we all roadkilled.
We once family, rooted
to ground. There is too much that paws can not mend. Now, we silently rooted
to the dead air. O, the vanishing green,
where can you be? Sillies, we must find it before we all roadkill.
Are we above the trees now? Somewhere high above, leaving a berried
ground of tails & guts & furs & opened belly—
once, a body. A body that was never quite ours. Sillies,
is there a lovelier death? A death less hot & ugly? O Sillies,
here is my open belly. Here is my babies’ open belly. Here is decay—a warm, warm belly.
The beast of quick light comes again & again & again & we are smaller than