David Chorlton

Link to home pageLink to current issueLink to back issuesLink to information about the magazineLink to submission guidelinesSend email to misfitmagazine.net

Dawn Below the Mountain

The day’s tragedies begin early:
deportations, distant war, another random
shooting, and the ice cap
melting into the coffee
served at breakfast.
                        Out there
on the ridgeline
is a different world, rising
into daylight, warming to it one
bird at a time, pressing its back into space
the stars leave behind. All night
                                            the stones
lay silver in the darkness while
it howled. Down here
                        it’s peaceful
watching the rock face turn rose,
without knowing how fast
the hunted had to run
from the lightning
that pursued them.

Kiev Apocalypse

            November 1993

The constellations grind
and wheel about infinity
as the works inside a clock
announcing one last
deadline. Believers gather

in Kiev for the end.
This time
no reprieve.
They are wiping the faces
from icons, spraying
last words on buildings
and declaring them defunct.
In the marbled underworld,

trains rumble
through palatial stations
carrying families home
for final meals

planned for early afternoon
with a walk to follow
on the boulevard for friends
to meet. Watches synchronized,

eyes raised,
and ready for the wind
to come out of the ground,

they circle to hold
hands with the centuries
folding together
from Tatar invasion to nuclear flash.
The minute hand

points toward the purifying
ether, as everyone blinks
trying to trap the Earth’s
last moment in their eyes.

The Hohokam

We push the desert back
farther by the year,
sow grass
and concrete where
the ground was dry
and twist another faucet
for water to flow
as if it came to us in private rivers
or lay
deep beneath the roads
and gardens we inhabit
as a birthright
although we were not born here.
This Phoenix
rose, not from ashes
but from land deserted
by a thirsty people
who could not drink the stones
along the riverbed.
We make beds above their ruins,
catalogue their artifacts,
imagine how they farmed
and cooled themselves,
but never think
of us as being spun
around our bones
as they were, in the same
proportion of calcium
to water, lungs to air
and drought.
A civilization grew here
and ended,
leaving the weather to cover
its traces. Just the birds
remain; mourning doves
and hawks. We fill
in the rest, crops,
shelter, the numbers
of those who breathed the air here,
and what they believed
is a mystery to us
who have lost count of ourselves.


David Chorlton is a transplanted European, who has lived in Phoenix since 1978. His poems have appeared in many publications online and in print, and reflect his affection for the natural world, as well as occasional bewilderment at aspects of human behavior. His newest collection of poems is Bird on a Wire from Presa Press, and The Bitter Oleander Press published Shatter the Bell in my Ear, his translations of poems by Austrian poet Christine Lavant.