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The Mothers of Sparta

Yes, they said. I said it. Come back. Bearing your shield. Or

            on it. For fateful.  In warfare. In phalanx


To pierce. The midriff. Of a flying. Man. Disgraced. Are

           The dead. Who lieth. In dust


Spear points in their backs. The shield. Hardwood

           Coated. With a skin. Of bronze. More the shape


Of a bowl. Than a disk. Concave. Enough. To carry.

            A corpse. Efficient. Method to move


Bodies off the ground. So others could get back

            To the crops. What is. A saying? I say


Enemy propaganda. What bearing. You have.

            Phonemes, vocables and spit. Did sayings.


Spittle dew? Crystal grew. Clarity in song. Dewfall

             In sunlight. So hot,


We ran in our skirts short. And threw the massy spears.

             Sun glossed our skins and muscles.


What is. A saying. We were. Of similar muscular state as our sons

              And we got to leave the house in the afternoons


Do who knows what. Unlike the mothers of

             Other sayings. Who were veiled confined indoors


Phantasied. All the sayings are fatiguing me.

             The skirt shortens and falls between my legs


So I can exercise my extremely muscular state.

             In crushing sunlight daze I rumble in the muck


To practice into the other. Until more of them die.

             Than you. When I was a mother who.


Who can tell when I was a mother

             Who could break at the burst of speed


What is a saying? They sheared my hair to make me look more

              Like you, boy, before bringing me


To your father. What is saying

              Your darling, you.

A poet, editor, and translator, Gillian Conoley is the author of ten collections of poetry, including her most recent Notes from the Passenger (Nightboat Books, 2023). Often comprising narrative, lyric, and fragmented forms, her work takes up an inquiry into spirit and matter, the individual and the state. Conoley received the Shelley Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America, a National Endowment for the Arts Grant, and a Fund for Poetry Award. A long-time resident of the San Francisco Bay Area, she is editor of VOLT magazine. Her translations of three books by Henri Michaux, Thousand Times Broken, appearing in English for the first time, is with City Lights.

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