Winner of Lemon Hound’s First Poetry Prize

by Melanie Siebert

Thereafter the northern plains would be cattle country.
I had paid off my younger self speaking of the highly contaminated water.

The dust was slaloming through the postmodern footnotes.
The sandhill cranes etc had refused treatment.

A host country manipulated the climate to guarantee good vibes to visiting qualms.
Given that the leaked materials nearly trampling me continued to slow, I watched

the footage of passengers huddling on the wings of the floating aircraft, just so
I could be made serious by love and choreography.

There was a part of me that felt that if I got into a cab that said wicked,
it would take me to hell. Pretty much

the rest of that day a crane-claw opened and closed.
The horsemen chirped into the mouths of artificially whitening clouds.

The wind in this, that once felt too private, read from cue cards.
I was double-hearing the suicides, who never leave the stage, so as not to sleep.

Maybe Dante’s goddamn mike was open—



Every sentence in “Thereafter” is interesting. The first one seems plain enough, like something quoted from a history of North America, but the word “Thereafter” sits at the start like a poison pill, so full of faux inevitability it’s bound to make us suspicious. And there’s lots to be suspicious of. It’s as if we’re listening to the voices of the damned (Dante’s goddamn mike was open) and they’re our voices, just skewed enough that we notice what we’ve been saying all along. So we’ll just “manipulate the climate to guarantee good vibes for the visiting qualms.” (We wish!) In this poem our own language comes back to bite us. If only we could wake up.

–Rae Armantrout

MELANIE SIEBERT’S first collection, Deepwater Vee (M&S), was a finalist for Canada’s Governor General’s Literary Award for poetry. In 2013, she was a writer-in-residence at the Pierre Berton House. You can follow her on Twitter.






RAE ARMANTROUT’S poetry has appeared widely for several decades. She is a founding member of the West Coast Language Poets. Her collection of poetry, Versed (Wesleyan 2009), won a National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize. She teaches at UC San Diego. Here she is in conversation with Melissa Bull on Lemon Hound. You can follow Armantrout on Twitter.