The Vale of Malevolent Volume

unmythologically we dragged the bodies
there to find themselves finally bodies
backward dragged them over the leaves’

unrest limbs trussed in our perforated thirst
in blackness the moon like a nail snatched
from bed their heads with nowhere to turn

but the backs of our throats which were
everywhere throats once such baskets
of holy and hopesburrow then hornets’ nests

of nameinvain then hammer doors and fists
fastening sounds we made were the fiction
of us reciting itself until all our bark was

callous perhaps at last our loudlack
worried them sick the cities were hard
to remember not long after we killed

the lights not long before we plunged them
darkly under claws our concrete scrabble
tunneled under the suburbs and stormed

the stairs and stories and stories of children
here when knots of fingers slipped from root
and crag when we molar nagged the ankles

married bone to bone we understood their
outbursts what a tongue would not contort
enough to soothe we knew that noise

as well as we knew our swarm at last to be
a denser compaction of lightlessness
than any against which their terror raked

itself raw our jaws recorded their melancholy
for flailing which we engraved on the forests
we recognized the cries we didn’t pretend not

to hear them hearing did not make us want to stop

From The Malevolent Volume (Coffee House Press, 2020) by Justin Philip Reed. Copyright © 2020 by Justin Philip Reed. Used with the permission of the Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Coffee House Press,