Ars Poetica (cocoons)

Dana Levin
Six monarch butterfly cocoons
      clinging to the back of your throat—

      you could feel their gold wings trembling.

You were alarmed. You felt infested.
In the downstairs bathroom of the family home,
      gagging to spit them out—
            and a voice saying Don’t, don’t—

More by Dana Levin

Styx

You put a bag around your head and walked into the river.
You

walked into the river with a bag around your head and you were
never dead 

game on the banks of your
mental styx

for the double
audience

of smoke—


               —


You pressed a coin into his palm and stepped across the water.
You

stepped across the water with a hand on his arm and he was
silent and kind as you
               shoved off, toward the smoky coils

of the greek-seeming dead—
You’d been trying to sleep.

Found yourself here
in the mythocryptic land—

The river


               —


had widened to a lake. You were anchored
in the shallow boat 

by his faceless weight—
And on the green shore you could see their vapored

residue, how they could
smell it, those two―if you 	

slit your wrist you could make them speak.

If you


               —


slit your wrist you might be able to sleep.

Grief. 
Grief. 
Handing you back

your coin.

Letter to GC

I say most sincerely and desperately, HAPPY NEW YEAR! 

Having rowed a little farther away from the cliff

Which is my kind of religion

Adrift in the darkness but readying oars

How can there be too many stars and hands, I ask you

                               —

I would be disingenuous if I said "being understood" were not important to me 

Between the ceiling of private dream and the floor of public speech 

Between the coin and the hand it crosses

Mercantilists' and governors' and preachers' alike

The imagination and its products so often rebuff purpose

And some of us don't like it, and want to make it mean

I would never shoot you, even if you were the only meat around

                               —

Anyway, I empathize with your lower division semester (which sounds
         kinda Dante, to me)

Snow-bound sounds gorgeous and inconvenient

Like the idea of ending on the internal rhyme of psychics and clients

Though I too privilege the "shiny" 

And of course, I want to be approved of, so much 

Despite the image I've been savoring, the one of the self-stitching wound
 
Yes, I want to write that self-healing wound poem, the one with
         cocoon closed up with thorns

We are getting such lovely flourishes from our poets

Fathomless opportunities for turning literacy into event

It's the drama of feeling we find such an aesthetic problem, 
         these days

Bardo

You don't have to break it. Just give it a little 
tap.

tap tap. See,

there's the crack. And if you pry it a little
         with the flat end of that spoon,

you'll be able to slip yourself through.


                               —


To the woods where you're walking. Crushed ice above you
         like a layer of sky—

Some sun under it making it gleam.

Some snow under it bloodless and bright

in the fissured heart, the winter morgue of its imagined
         land.


                               —


Where you can find her—

Sprawled, face down, in the snow—

Bracing herself up, a puff of ice at her chin, then seizing
         and dying all over again—

Automaton. You prop her up.

And it’s like shaking a doll, How dare it, How dare it—

What


                               —


good is she for, there in her dying machine?

You push her shoulders back against the trunk of the tree,
         her chest’s so cold it cracks—

so you can slip yourself through. 
         To the woods she's been walking, 

         wondering where the living have gone.