Laura Madeline Wiseman

As I sort and scoop compost into the wheelbarrow
the Martian coughs and says, We’re not from Mars.
I crouch on my knees and push aside brittle leaves

from the worms and refuse. I respond, If not Mars,
where are you from?
I glance from the hollow stalks
of sunflowers and withered arms of tomato plants.

The Martian sweeps away a swath of pine needles.
In the dry silt beneath, the Martian draws a canal
in a desert of saguaros. Next the Martian sketches

bison on glacial ice and spears inside Mammoth Cave.
Third, the Martian traces a labyrinth, a ball of twine,
and Minoans writing lists in a dead language

no one has yet to translate. You’re a lost people,
I infer, an unknown. The Martian adds a fourth image,
a galaxy of stars and planets and a medieval sundial.

All these people, the Martian says, have been named by you
because you didn’t know what they called themselves.

I begin to ask about the outline of three large moons,

but the Martian grabs my hand and pulls me up
until my palm is flat against the Martian’s green chest.
Shhh, the Martian says, We’ve never been lost.

“Misnomer” appeared in the 2011 edition of the Labletter.

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