Chera Hammons



They Gather Their Belongings
in response to the photograph of the Syrian refugee child found dead on the beach

They know what many will never study,

like how to press olives into soft thinness
that melts over the tongue,

and how to make goat’s milk into cheese.

How to make something into bread.

How to eat when they have to pretend
that something is enough.

How to let the walls shake, if they must.

How to quiet children between the blasts
and comfort the baby when it wakes to rubble.

How to tell the difference between
a home that will kill them
and a house that might let them live.

How to gather their belongings.

How to make something— anything— into a boat.

How to bring their children with them to the sea.

How to go into the sea with them bundled.

How to tell them stories of the sea.

How bright are the bundles,
and the sea is unfathomable and cold.

How it tosses the craft that they have fashioned.

How to lose their children to the sea.

Though I lost a child once, it was not the same as that.

It was too early for anyone to know it was a child.
It was cells with barely any form.

It was not like the one that they knew.

This one has a red shirt, black hair,
shoes still fastened. This one was perfect.

We know it, when we look at him
pale and perfect, facing away from us
toward the sea that he left.

The way we find him: not facing us.

How we learn to carry him out of the water,
but he does not belong to us.

There are pictures of us carrying him out,
but he still does not belong to us.

Everyone knows it. How bright are the bundles.

We are gathering their belongings.

The sea is unfathomable and cold.

Though I lost a child once, it was not the same as that.



Physics of the Curve

If we are moving, we must be falling.
But not so fast we notice yet. It’s a slow sink,
like drink, then drunk; the curves that draw us in. The bead of

condensation sweating
down a bottle—you can’t

help but watch it slip to a wet ring
on the hardwood stain. Dimmer switch
of sun-slide. The sighing down

to supernova while we kick the round waves
of salt-licked vistas and enjoy the weather. This orbit
should blow us right off our feet, I’ve heard,
straight to the crater moon, lunar
halo whitening its blind side,

but gravity is greedy,
tries to pull us under, is not without a fight.
It seems we are always in-between.
Our cold and billowing atmosphere
sits anchored on its tether until it
gets too full and has to dive, so

it clears out, driving without
any sort of question rain
to mud, and not surface-stopping,

unwinding underground caverns, Ogallala
pools under houses,
but skyward it doesn’t make a sound,
just a rush or roar or drumming when
it has come into contact with the ground,
and the thrill of a burst, a bubble under,
some other place it can make it through.

Our kind of falling is in love, hard, out
of grace, free, to the floor, back
at least once a year, we name a season for it,

get shorter every summer
as our mass drags us toward the middle,
sparking children closer
to the center than ourselves. But
it’s never fast enough.
The slant goes back as far as we can see,
ringing the years like a redwood.
At this rate we will go on falling bit-by-bit forever,
though our end has always seemed so soon.

The tide goes back. A space is made for water
somewhere. I still don’t feel my age,
could wait as long as it takes to find out

if down is the only direction.
The gathering weather grows
heavy, cracks its lid, sloshes out the cold drops.
It has always been this way.
Heaven shivers into a sea solid enough to slip

below its astral arch.
It falls, it hits. It slips out
like the curve from someone’s motherhood.
It tells a thirsting ground
about its sciences.


Chera Hammons is a graduate of the MFA in Creative Writing program at Goddard College. Her work has appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, Rattle, Tupelo Quarterly, and Valparaiso Poetry Review, among other fine publications. Her chapbook Amaranthine Hour received the 2012 Jacar Press Chapbook Award. Her book Recycled Explosions is forthcoming from Ink Brush Press. She is a member of the editorial board of poetry journal One. She lives in Amarillo, TX and teaches at Clarendon College.