Dora Malech

A long-gone hand behind this scrap of map
dips the brush into red lead again
and lifts the wet tip up to fly across
an ocean and touch down in the unknown
where it emblazons its best guesses, draws
ornate conclusions in the far shore's sand.

Now, as ever, dawn illuminates
the landscape's manuscript, over which
the day must pass, peripatetic, before
sunset can rubricate the hour's red letter.

There are still shapes and patterns we are taught
truth takes, contested borders unexpressed,
pretty pictures in complimentary
colors, nations nestled purple against
yellow, crimson cradling blue. What hand
wants to smudge the fine lines and express
the messiness of lives lived liminal?

The globe at least attempts to hold a kind
of truth, dimensionality, orb
born of glued gores narrowing their finer
points poleward, but when the spinning stops,
it's still a toy that tumbles into the same
traps of empire and HIC SVNT LEONES.

I'm not immune to putting the crypt- before
the cart- in all my -ography. In my
heart of hearts, I call my aorta
regina viarum, the Appian Way,
beg each ornery orrery to orbit

       Rubbing my closed eyes in the dark,
I might think that I see lights, when in fact
I feel pressure and cells activate
phosphene's entoptic phenomenon, bright
blurs like what a satellite might capture,
whole galaxies or our metropolises'
light pollution, depending where the camera
sets its sights.

                      Deep beneath the ocean's
swells, bioluminescent creatures
travel currents as predators and prey,
and a black box flight recorder pings its signal
outside the range of human hearing.
                                                        I've heard
the box is actually painted orange. 

I've heard we have thirty days before
the batteries die and it falls silent.

If we were to trust our actual ears,
we’d think it had been silent all along.

More by Dora Malech

Each year

                  I snap the twig to try to trap
the springing and I relearn the same lesson.
You cannot make a keepsake of this season. 
Your heart's not the source of that sort of sap,
lacks what it takes to fuel, rejects the graft,
though for a moment it's your guilty fist 
that's flowering. You're no good host to this
extremity that points now, broken, back at
the dirt as if to ask are we there yet.
You flatter this small turn tip of a larger 
book of matches that can't refuse its end,
re-fuse itself, un-flare. Sure. Now forget
again. Here's a new green vein, another
clutch to take, give, a handful of seconds.

Catoctin Mountain Park


He who thus considers things in their first growth and origin, whether a state or anything else, will obtain the clearest view of them.
—Aristotle, Politics (translated by Benjamin Jowett)


Look out across
the ridges of trees
flushed red
as if holding
their breath
to blue distance,
a wager made
with the sky.

Look out over
the Appalachians’
eastern rampart,
then scrap the word for parts—
before, prepare, fortify
to take possession of again.

On the road in, two wild
turkeys bustle off into
the brush.

Off the trail in wet leaves,
yellow eyes of a box turtle.

What I take
to be the stripes
of common shiner
in a riffle.

Alone, one might intone
whose woods, whose woods,
one might whisper
democratic vistas.

One might say
summit and Summit,
as elsewhere, but near,
are Aristotle’s other
at fenced and guarded
leisure, though the wind

passes as it pleases,
and when it shakes
the trees, it is not
an agreement at all.

Aleph, Bet

In my favorite version, the man recites the alphabet
over and over, and when asked, he says he is praying.
He admits he lacks the words, but says perhaps if he provides
enough letters, God can piece his purpose back together.

The word is kavanah, translates to concentration or intent,
without which, the words lie inert. And with? Call it all rise.
The urge made agent, leavens the lips, tongue, throat, and eyes.
In other words, heart’s yes, yeast, or likens to, likewise lives,

needs no light to grow. What say the brewer and baker?
What of the grapes in the sun with the yes on their skin,
the blush or bloom? And what of this yes’s twin, the, as they say,
opportunistic pathogen? I don’t believe I know. I’d like to ask

someone who knows, summon my strongest letters together and say:
How long do you think you knew before you knew you knew? Or rather,
how long do you think you think you knew before you dressed
your I guess in the yes you said I do to, to know you know now?