Back to Issue Forty-Two

The Iron Harvest



Yearly, farmers in eastern France turn up several hundred tons
of unexploded munitions from the First World War. Officials expect
complete clearance of artillery to take up to nine hundred years.

Soft below the killing fields of Verdun, tumors
smile in sleep, forgotten again

by the iron harvest. Peer into the gun
-shy hush of the meadowed-over trenches, see how they’ve grown

bluestem and aster in the swerve of snakeskin. Quick, before green
is felled again by the perennial war

against moldboard, see hummingbirds nurse the beebalm
rising plumb to mortar scars while in the next field,

metastases cough out their guts
worth of mustard gas, unclothing the crabgrass

and the history books, the shatter
spilled with its voicebox intact. Let me remind you,

it wheezes to the ruptured
sheep, how easy it is for cells

to come undone. How unexploded
is just another word for wait. The earth again

upturned in tills of molt and mangle, the shells
bubbling aground as fickle as newborns and cradled as such

when carted to the disposal depot. Farmers
flay another scab, shove their fingers

through another gape. Like any good medic,
they resect the bloodwet lead, and like any good bomb,

it has friends. Hear it dog-whistle to the aneurysms
afester under the next generation

of poppies. The next.
Hear it live beneath us still.


Eliza Gilbert is a rising sophomore at Vassar College. Her poetry appears or is forthcoming in Third Wednesday Magazine, Anti-Heroin Chic, and Neologism Poetry Journal. She hails from Manhattan, New York.

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