by Devon Miller-Duggan
Still young, the giantesses’ huge bodies
curved like dunes, their wombs still, open,
empty as sand. They walked together
toward flatlands, away from the coasts on which
giants kicked cliffs into salt water
or sat staring across oceans, waiting for waves
to push their breath in and out of their chests.
The tall-as-trees women stepped across lakes,
across rivers, bowed to the grasslands,
then made a fire of grasses and trees dead for centuries
at the hands of wind.
The women danced, each picking up
one foot delicately, stepping to one side,
bringing their feet down in dust-raising, grasshopper-startling
steps, clockwise, then widdershins, dawn-wise, then dusk-wise.
Their bellies rounded out like whole moons—inhalation—
flattened like spent waves—exhalation.
They tired. Land told them it wearied, wanting and wanting
to feed their hungers, dance beneath their feet.
They turned from one another,
walked away in all directions,
following paths made by animals we have
long forgotten, each giantess hearing a single
severed cry that might have been her name.
They walk until they cannot walk.
They lie down on their sides,
pillowing their own heads with their bent arms.
Their breathing slows
and slows, shallowing, matching
the brush of grasses against grasses.
The wind never stills, entering everything,
bringing all the earth it traveled,
soughing, blanketing the women, whose breathing
leaves them to join the wind, year by year
flying away with things that become birds, thousand-year
The giantesses sleep, not dead, no longer
needing breath. They have become the roll of the land,
become waves ridden by those who will become horses,
will become bison, will be seeded by those
who have become birds.
Their hips and waists are become the rise and fall of plains,
of land that can be neither flattened, nor raised.
The women have birthed hills, buttes, scarred land.
Devon Miller-Duggan has published poems in Margie, The Antioch Review, Massachusetts Review, and Spillway. She teaches at the University of Delaware. Her books include Pinning the Bird to the Wall (Tres Chicas Books, 2008), Alphabet Year, (Wipf & Stock, 2017), and The Slow Salute (Lithic Press Chapbook Competition Winner, 2018).