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.
The More Extravagant Feast
The buck is thawing a halo on the frosted ground,
shot in our field predawn.
Last night we pulled a float in the Christmas parade.
It was lit by a thousand tiny lights.
My daughter rode in my lap and was thrilled
when the float followed us. Ours is a small town.
Everyone was there. And their faces,
not seeing ours, fixed behind us, were an open sea,
a compound sea of seas that parted
under our gaze. And Santa was bright,
though my daughter shied from the noise of him.
She studied the red and white fur of his suit.
She woke this morning when the rifle fired outside.
I lifted her to see the sunrise
and her father, kneeling above the buck’s body
in the middle distance. She asked if they would be cold.
I brought him gloves and warm water, knelt with him
in the spare light by the buck, who steamed, whose liver
and heart, kept so long dark,
spilled onto the winter grass,
whose open eyes saw none of it, realized
nothing of my husband’s knife
slicing open his abdomen, his rectum. The puncture
of his diaphragm startled me more than the gunshot,
opening a cavern of deep blood that poured
over his white belly. I did not
understand the offering, but loved it,
the fur red, white, incoherent. Somehow cleaner.
When I come back in, she asks me to draw a picture
of her father on the hill. I pick her up—the miracle
of her lungs that grew inside me,
kept long dark—her working heart
let out into the rounder world,
the more extravagant feast. The miracle
of her dad on the hill as we draw him
in his big coat, warm. Afterward,
how he and I hold each other
the collections of muscles
and organs held
somehow together. The miracle
of bodies, formed whole like fruits,
skins unruptured and
containing the world.