Little Houses | Delores Peffley

                                      Little Houses | Delores Peffley

Some of us took the position

it was impossible to fight in air. Some took

the position of wings, rapid and hectic


our broken hands arguing against the use

of force. Some of us were born lethal, special

in our small, light-moving bodies.


Some of us saw the playground diminish

in size, restricted in the name of self.

Games that once relied upon elaborate signals


were replaced by twin trenches, and by sheer repeated

battering—by bow, by catapult, we learned to live

close to the earth, and score each sparrow’s heart


with a bullet. We were disproportionate,

like a man following pigeons on a bicycle.

Some challenged the state distinctions


between part and principle, how its rose-shaped

logic seemed to advanced a system of conflict

between belligerent leaders and unmanned Author,


who authorized all aerial measures. The individual,

such as he is, shall be employed in conformity

with applicable calibers, recited the law.


Let us imagine thirty men, desperately bent.

Let us imagine the poison heart of future infancy.

Let me be clear as our domestic sky, said some


prayers, sent by ballista to parents the clouds resembled,

and while some saw in the planes a third brother,

some suggested targets: they were dealt new hands.


*note: the source texts of this poem are The Command of the Air by Giulio Douhet, translated by Dino Ferrari; and a speech given by Harold Koh, the Legal Adviser to the US Department of State, clarifying the legality of preemptive drone strikes.


A dictionary hurtles toward you, dropped

from an unmanned drone.

Freedom’s trick is to bury itself

then explode, softly: bomblets:

child-size munitions falling down

—lil’ minibomb, lil’ bomblings—

delivered by nylon, gravity-armed:

this is bloodless combat, no question

of the laser spot spreading. Napalm,

on the other hand—

easy to unpack: naphthene and

palmitate, lit fuse of leaves—

leaflets rain through the roof.

When the lowlanders were driven

to the mountains they transposed

the passes ports: centuries later

our army precedes its materiel with Porta

-filler, -dump, -morgue,

a trail of proprietary language

dots the valley around Camp Echo.

Aerial incendiary—is the word

phosphorous?—it’s right on the tip

of the present, whose origins remain

so obscure who could describe

even if his tongue were intact

how the twin contrails recall

the beginning of a familiar letter

now blurred into a burnt swath of air

I recognize as just what I’ve been

trying to say this whole time.


only the plutonium plume contained less poetry

pushing it over the waters       spent fuel rods stacked on the cooling tower

            less anaphoric power. If only the days built a house of prayer

over the open oven of ions gone haywire       language ceased being

so prone to flowering mutation. If only          we could stop watching the waves, leaving

            ten thousand replies to each other’s poses      stop pointing out

the obvious, that body                        can’t be real  Can it. The hands feel

fake, by feel I mean    appear, affixed.

The Malboro hole        where the eyes keep returning

each time, the question of the corpse pupil burnt red             the flash         

at close-range fleshing out the conflict           between ideal and

            execution. Under the gamma knife the hemispheres glow

like a hillside on fire, each cell’s red swell      a trillion livid selves. If only

the cure was being everywhere at once            we might bring ourselves

to terms. Fields fallow            a thousand years still burn.



ANDREW ALLPORT is the author of the body of space in the shape of a human, which won the 2011 New Issues Prize. His chapbook, The Ice Ship & Other Vessels, is available from Proem Press. His work has appeared in The Antioch Review, Colorado Review, Denver Quarterly and Boston Review, and was nominated by The Los Angeles Review for a Pushcart Prize. He lives in Durango, Colorado.