Amy Shimshon-Santo: Nothing That Matters Can Be Invented

Amy Shimshon-Santo: Nothing That Matters Can Be Invented
Photo: Joanna C. Valente

Photo: Joanna C. Valente

evacuation (a poem + two postscripts)


in the field of a family

there was empty space

outlines, outskirts of bodies

once related, determined

to exit the scene

follow another north

a woman

a man

a grown child

bent on departure


each character vacates the scene

no honey left on their plates

the woman leaves first

her eye on another feeling

the man leaves next

the back of his head exits the courtyard

the child is the last to go

starshot from an arrow


witness the unmaking of a family

the simultaneous demise

of an idea


I could have been her, or him, or their offspring

but I was the space between them

their observer


oxygen entered and exited

their skin sculptures

nitrogen, argon, carbon dioxide


when air left the room

the field became a grey wall

nothing would grow or perish

a memory vacuum, aching quiet


flight attendants wave their two fingers

left and then right, exits on either side

by the wings, but everyone knows

a thin orange life vest won’t save you

from the descent, smack

against an enormous ocean

we will fall, apart


when their story ended

everyone had someplace

to go, but me


I was


a want

a torso

or destination


I was only a record

of the space between them

bloated & expanding


sorrow, hearts unfastened

is the sibling of death, this is how to die

whether or not your body stops


terror clutched my imagination

the turmoil was not the man

or the woman, the child

or the courtyard, the home

or their paths away from each other


the pain was all the glass breaking

wind sweeping the edges

of their desolate invention

a space without feet or words

cold blue, wall-less in its eternity


how to unmake a world?

pretend, for a moment

the music stops


flick off all the lights


p.s. how to unravel relations?


turn yourself inside out like a sock

fling open windows and the doors

erase the chalk pathways back

point fingers at a distant sun


p.p.s. prayer over a ruins


outside the frame

pink, fallen eucalyptus leaves

soak in a puddle of water

pooled on red brick


the wind ruffles branches

in a grove of trees

on a mountain that isn’t dead


nothing that matters

can be invented

or maligned



arma virumque cano


“I sing of arms and a man.” - The Aeneid



how can I sing of arms and men

dressed in navy blue

plump white biceps

bursting from their creased short sleeves?

my mouth opens

but no song comes out


these lyrics ricochet

off the barrel of a gun

clutched between

a policeman’s trembling hands

as he peers down on a family

through a glass window


if this were a song

the lyrics would become

a balm for the bloodied arm

of a man who fed school children

slumped in the driver’s seat

of his automobile


wet red on white cotton

his fiancé narrating

his execution on a mobile phone

while her four-year-old daughter

looks on from the back seat


the child already knows

“police are bad. they killed him

and he’s not coming back.”


if this were a song

the melody would dissolve

into the back of a man

collapsed on the pavement

face down by the bumper of a car


a policeman’s knee pinned

between his shoulders


his body robbed of breath

could as well have been

an echoing rope or twisted tree

no court of law or jury


blue men are not gods

though arms have

bestowed on them

the godly power

of executioner


how can I sing

without gagging on clots of despair?

how can america sing

without weeping?


if this were a song

it would serenade

the mothers and their children

the fatherless children

and childless fathers


if this were a song

it would fill funerals, speckled

with marigolds and daisies

but who can sing

in times like these?

Amy Shimshon-Santo is  from Dogtown, a place that no longer exists. She’s a polylingual writer and educator with immediate family on three continents. Amy has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize in creative nonfiction (2017), Best of the Net in poetry (2018), and recognized on the national Honor Roll for Service Learning. Her poetry collection Even the Milky Way is Undocumented is forthcoming with Unsolicited Press (2020). Read her work published by Yes Poetry, Zócalo Public Square, Anti-Heroin Chic, Rag Queen Periodical, SAGE Publications, Entropy, Public, Tiferet Journal, UC Press, SUNY Press, on