The fire beetle only mates when the chaparral is burning, and the water beetle will only mate in the rain. In the monastery’s kitchen, the nuns don’t believe me when I tell them how old I am, that you were married before. The woman you find attractive does not believe me when I look at her kindly. There are candescent people in the world. It will only be love that I love you with. When we get home, there will be our kitchen, the dishes undone. There will be our bedroom. What is it you eventually recognized in my face that allowed you to believe me? Beauty that did not come from you— remember how it did not come from you? As white sage does not come from the moon but is found by it and lit. The Buddhists say that the front of the paper cannot exist without the back. Because there is a there, there is a here. Chaparral, the density of growth, and the tattered chaps the mappers wore through it because they had to, to keep walking without being hurt. It is OK if we hurt one another. Chaparral needs fire. (The pinecones would not open otherwise.) Love needs lover, whose last lover was flood.
Leah Naomi Green
To the Cardinal, Attacking His Reflection in the Window
“It is your very self” I tell him. He has never seen me. His quick coin of breath disappears on the glass as it forms: air that feeds his bones their portion willingly as it feeds mine. He spends his here, besieged by the dull birds who gather and whom he cannot touch, his own feathers red as wrought blood. Dear bird, how many selves must you vanquish? In the mornings, his wings are backlit. They are beating, delicate, cruciform, hollow feather, hollow bone. In the blizzard his furor is the only color, the only shape. He is waiting for the coward to come out. There is nothing all winter he has saved to eat. I saw a female the day before he disappeared. Her beak just as orange, her body, calm, watched his. I made voices for her: variations on the pride and hemmed patience of women I’d known whose husbands did insistent, strong, and strange things. Maybe she knew it was spring. I didn’t. The next day he came once to throw the bright dime of his life to the walled world, as if to make sure it was not feather against feather that hurt him.