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by Martha Collins

They sit in a circle, a semi-
circle, as if on a stage, and you
are the audience, watching them beat
their drums in the dim light.

They dance in a circle, a shrinking
circle, their skins glisten, and you
are the victim tied to a stake, the center
they circle, shifting their thick spears.

Of course they do not speak
to you, but they know something you
don’t know, a deeper dark you’d like
to know, you in your circle, shrunk

with fear, beating your tiny drum
drum drum (they slink, they crouch,
they huddle, they jump) and what
they know is you, is us: they bear

our weapons, they carry our fears,
another country but distance
is nothing, no one, the country
they are is difference, someone

or other, you or they—curtain
down, house lights on, we sit
in a circle, our hands our drums, we
are center, circumference, every one.


Martha Collins’ second book of poems, The Arrangement of Space, will be published this fall. Her manuscript-in-progress, A History of Small Life on a Windy Planet, won the PSA’s di Castagnola Award. (1991)

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