Turns out bacteria communicate in color.
     They warn each other in teal
  or celadon & humans assign
meaning to this, saying they are distressed
      or full of longing. The wood rat
    makes a nest of H’s; it hoards
the seven tiny silences. Crows in the pine
can count specific faces like writers
    who feel their art has been ignored.
             My father spent his life thinking
         about money though he knew
      it causes most of this stupid violence,

& he thought of me as a sensible person;
      you have the chemical for sensible, he said.
There was no tragedy between us,
            unlike how poor Joyce wrote
        that his daughter turned away
from that battered cabman’s face, the world.
    i didn’t turn away because i don’t know
where it is, it is all over, & when it seems
     pure nothingness has come to pass,
i know another animal prepares itself
         nationless, not sensible;
            thinking of it helps a little bit—

This poem originally appeared in American Poets, Spring-Summer 2016. Copyright © 2016 Brenda Hillman. Used with permission of the author.