This week in the PEN Poetry Series, PEN America features a poem by Cherry Pickman. 

Public Works

It was an election year. The switchboards flickered with stars in their

universe of calls. Of all places, a public park. The workers had begun

to dig, to lay the electrical, to invigorate the place with energy. Light

it up. First, they found a braid, wrapped like a boa from collarbone

to chest. What happened next is unclear. From all accounts there were

shoots, green-apple green, surrounding the site’s black pit. There was a mist

that held the backhoe’s groans, the mens’ mutterings. Other accounts vary. 

Of how many statues there were—and of whom. How many plaster arms

make a mass grave. Crowds gathered as sculpted skulls, palms were

harvested like heavy potatoes. There was one worker who, lifting 

a statue’s head from the earth, covered her eyes. Who did he think

he could spare?



Once a week, the PEN Poetry Series publishes work by emerging and established writers from coast to coast. Subscribe to the PEN Poetry Series mailing list and have poems delivered to your e-mail as soon as they are published (no spam, no news, just poems).