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Assault to Abjury

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Rain commenced, and wind did.

A crippled ship slid ashore.

Our swimmer’s limbs went heavy.

The sand had been flattened.

The primary dune, the secondary dune, both leveled.

The maritime forest, extracted.

Every yard of the shore was shocked with jellyfish.

The blue pillow of the man o’ war empty in the afterlight.

The threads of the jellyfish, spent.

Disaster weirdly neatened the beach.

We cultivated the debris field.

Castaway trash, our treasure.

Jewel box, spoon ring, sack of rock candy.

A bicycle exoskeleton without wheels, grasshopper green.

Our dead ten speed.

We rested in red mangrove and sheltered in sheets.

Our bruises blushed backwards, our blisters did.

is it true is it true

God help us we tried to stay shattered but we just got better.

We grew adept, we caught the fish as they fled.

We skinned the fish, our knife clicked like an edict.

We were harmed, and then we healed.

Raymond McDaniel, "Assault to Abjury" from Saltwater Empire. Copyright © 2008 by Raymond McDaniel.  Reprinted by permission of Coffee House Press.
Source: Saltwater Empire (Coffee House Press, 2008)
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Assault to Abjury

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  • Born in Florida, Raymond McDaniel lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he teaches at the University of Michigan and hosts the reading series at Shaman Drum Bookshop. His first book, Murder (a Violet) (2004), won the National Poetry Series competition, and his latest collection, Saltwater Empire (2008), offers provocative insights into a post-Katrina New Orleans and the surrounding South. “Assault to Abjury” paints just one of these haunting portraits; in a review of the collection, poet and critic Stephen Burt writes, “From the title onward these poems often look out, into the mouth of the Gulf, along an ecosystem more water than land, whose treasures and threats are more than we can handle.”

    When asked in an interview whether poetry can create change in the world, McDaniel responded, “Poetry is never going to directly induce that level of change (nor should it, lest it become indistinguishable from those authorities...

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