This poem appears in Counterbound, Issue 1 (June, 2020).

To read all essays and poetry, purchase the print edition.

Sequoia Snogren-Mcginnis

This is a Sign in Eight Parts

Stranger, I followed you
on OR-20 East, you in your silver Jeep,
for 157 miles along Gold Creek from Riley
to Payette. There you wove away and
so did I.

157 miles I watched
your tail. Passed
when you passed. Slowed

when you slowed.
Hands held, we pressed
alone down the road.

And at mile 180 we rolled over
an hour of our day and it took only
a second.
When you pass over time like that,

when you can watch it disappear
there, on your clock,
you know finally (do you know, finally?)
that time won’t hold your hand
until you decide something’s wrong.
Time will not wait
for you to hurt, for you
to realize that you’re suffocating your land.

I wonder how cattle know cars.
I wonder, do they know we’re careening?

Do they know that we have
somewhere powerful to be?
Perhaps the cattle know
about power better than I do,
with their ear tags and unwieldy mass,
always pregnant with meat.

Look how far we’ve come:
cows serve the sole purpose of feeding
our horror of beef-hungry American
machines. Injected and over-fed,

you can change a species with the
of a finger.

Carlo Revelli believes that we understand
the world in terms of kisses,
or series of kisses. Small movements.

How many desert kisses are there
in the infinity of Eastern Oregon’s sagebrush?
Hundreds? Millions? Or one,
in all that sea of pillowy moon?
What movement are you here to make?
How many kisses can you pledge to the movement?

That’s the thing
about movements. They require everything.
Loud voices and fists,
crowds and commitment.

The iridescent white-faced ibis is perched
on its stick legs in shallow water.
Bulging knees and necks bending
beaks to hearts: elegant sculptures
of feather
and bone. These beautiful birds
cannot fly with only
one feather or wing bones
that don’t compromise with the air.

Yes, you know this about movement.

A mouse ran under the tire of a semi-truck on OR-20.
I looked into the rearview,
blinked to honor that
small life, pancaked on hard pavement,
and patted myself on the back.

Disgusting, how easily we make pancakes.
How many species will we burn
in the deep fryer before someone
yells loud enough for us to hear that

yes, we’ve already won.
There is no contest.
The deep fryer is jammed on high heat,
and we are not enough
to unplug it.

There are signs peppered
with bullet holes everywhere I look.
How many ways can you go from a sign?

Here, take this sign.
This is a sign for you.
See all the bullet holes?

How many kisses
will you pledge? How many kisses
will you collect,

how many hands
will you bring to pull the plug?

Stranger, I followed you 157 miles from Riley to Payette.
How many kisses did you see during our time together?
How many pancakes, how many signs?

We both know what power is. Power is forgetting mice
in the midst of a frenzy to win what we won already,
to destroy what we destroyed
so long ago it seems no one can remember.

Sequoia Snogren-McGinnis is a student at Lewis & Clark College with interests in religious studies, sociology, and writing.

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