after Marie Howe

              in the wordless beginning

iguana & myrrh

magma & reef          ghost moth

& the cordyceps tickling its nerves

& cedar & archipelago & anemone

dodo bird & cardinal waiting for its red

ocean salt & crude oil         now black

muck now most naïve fumbling plankton

every egg clutched in the copycat soft

of me unwomaned unraced

unsexed          as the ecstatic prokaryote

that would rage my uncle’s blood

or the bacterium that will widow

your eldest daughter’s eldest son

my uncle, her son           our mammoth sun

& her uncountable siblings         & dust mite & peat

apatosaurus & nile river

& maple green & nude & chill-blushed &

yeasty keratined bug-gutted i & you

spleen & femur seven-year refreshed

seven-year shedding & taking & being this dust

& my children & your children

& their children & the children

of the black bears & gladiolus & pink florida grapefruit

here not allied but the same        perpetual breath

held fast to each other as each other’s own skin

cold-dormant & rotting & birthing & being born

in the olympus           of the smallest

possible once before once

Ecclesiastes: Thirteen-Year Cicada

our selves less self
than a knowledge

of time. time:
our shell, our salt,

our singing wings.
our wings like flakes

of mica, pining.
the land

tears its skin open
to free us,

& again, to lay us
down to rest.

systole. diastole. in all
directions: imminence;

the land emitting
a smell like love.

in the flash
between beats—

the still
of wholeness. summer,

we ate
& fucked & ate.

day a unit
to measure want.

want inseparable
from need.

deathless, we bury:
our bodies’ present;

our bodies’ future
wearing the shell

of another body.
the land names us

synapse, & we are
memory, waiting

to crack
its borders.

there is no border.

Related Poems

A Bell, Still Unrung

She daily effuses
the close-mouthed
tantrum of her fevers.

Hog-tied and lunatic.                         
Born toothsome, 
unholy. Born uppity.        
Blue-jawed and out-order.   
Watched her sculptor                   
split her bitter seam        
with his scalding knife;
mauled through the errant                
flesh of her nature

and hemorrhaged mercury, 
molted snakeroot, a smoke           
of weeping silver. 
She, accused.
Sprung from the head 
of a thousand-fisted

wretch or a blood-dark                                   
cosmos undoubling
her bound body.  
Vexed shrew. Blight of moon.         
She, armory. Pitched-milk pours
from her gold oracular.

Bred in her nest a lone                          
grenade, prized, unpried
its force-ripe wound.

She, disease. Often bruised
to brush the joy of anything.
Zombic. Un-groomed.      

Her night slinks open 
its sliding pin. One by one
these loose hopes

harpoon themselves
in, small-ghosts alighting
at her unwhoring.    

She, infirmary.
God’s swallowed
lantern, tar-hair and thick.

Her black torchstruck.
A kindling stick.
No sinkle-bible fix

to cure this burning.
Shrill hell. Jezebel.

Isn’t it lonely.


For days, weeks at a time, i lose whatever it is
which keeps my senses softened to the sentience of the earth,
to hillside grass running lightly before a silver wind
or a far slope rippling like a muscled shoulder
or how the gradine, faceted pebbles under me will rasp
as i ease in closer, resting my back
against the rough-skinned body of a gliricidia.

All this can suddenly go without a hint
like a room slips into darkness with a passing cloud—
except, i don't know how,
it happens with no slippage of the sense of self.
On drizzled mornings, when a silver fluttering beats to a white rush down the hills,
i can believe that seraphs bear the rain to us.
By afternoon, wind has lost color, stones are exactly stones,
the green ascending hill has stiffened into a surveyor's gradient.
The names by which i used to call the earth to come to me
have hardened in my mouth to scabs.

Who was it then who saw the wings of seraphs?
And who is looking now, squinting with eyes of quartz?
i want to understand how, inhabitants of the same life,
they do not know each other, they have never met;
how, looking out of the same windows, they see different worlds.
i want to find a way that they may see each other.
i want them—the glint-eyed one of rationed sight,
       the other, dream blinded even in the day's light—
to meet and in that meeting learn a threefold vision
that hopefully i may translate into new lines of language,
lines braided from their voices and my own speaking together,
an utterance which, if even for the duration of only a few words,
will speak our earth original again into creation.