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poetry Thief

The late poet Lee Sharkey illuminates varieties of theft—“The CEO,” “The tyrant,” “the thief of memory.”

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Thief

By Lee Sharkey

A thief has stolen the water from under the village.
He flees, holding it in his arms. The land is parched.

As a hand gathers eggs from the nest, the rich have gathered all the earth.
No bird opens its wing.

The land idolator builds his house in our orchard.
He’s in love with his passive solar, his bougainvillea.

The CEO is fingering something in his pocket.
C-notes in a money clip? A Glock? A worry stone?

The tyrant, the buffoon, the egomaniac.
The quantum state where the despot is all three.

The thief of memory has erased my face.
I ache. His blank indifference robs me of my history.

Like rats to a hayfield sycophants come and kneel before the king.
Listen: a rustling in the sheaves.

I take a pill to make loss go away.
A face appears in the mirror, swollen and asymmetrical.

The thief of righteousness has planted his semen in my belly.
I do hard labor, bring forth a chimera.

No one opens his mouth to speak.
Out of this quiet, a thought neither quartered nor quelled.

Lee Sharkey was the author of Walking Backwards (Tupelo, 2016), Calendars of Fire (Tupelo, 2013), and five earlier books of poems, as well as a number of chapbooks. I Will Not Name It Except to Say, a collection of poems she completed in the last months of her life, will be published by Tupelo in spring 2021. Lee Sharkey died in her home in Portland, Maine, on October 18, 2020.