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Megan Fernandes

Megan Fernandes in the author of The Kingdom and After (Tightrope Books, 2015). She is an assistant professor of English at Lafayette College and lives in New York City.

By This Poet

4

The Jungle

In midsummer, in Los Angeles,
the night is fractured

with mountains, grilling ink
into the blue thaw. I trail

into pools and pastures,
and in the diner,

tattoos speck
and skirt up booths,

the waitress, Dottie, is whipping
shells, mac and cheese,

waffles and chickens,
all oracles in the oil.

You think I’m kidding? Look
at Hopper’s orange rooms,

his lone man. Vineyards
are boring to paint,

the coffee rumbling us all
into a primal scene, the mismatched

silverware like guns in a Western,
all the possibilities

of a warm night.
The thing about LA is

anyone can walk through
the door. The drunk drive, the

open-air and clipping down
Highland Avenue. Here are all the streets

I remember: Alvarado and Effie.
Mohawk and Montana. Before

all this? The hills of Carpinteria,
cattle punk, the drained floodplains

and eucharistic jimson weed.
But dig that ditch city,

those impersonal stones,
the great vigilance

of the 19th century,
the circus of eggs on the plate,

Dottie full of lips, just lips
sipping, stinging the sandy air.

In California, Everything Already Looks Like an Afterlife

For Leia and Graham

Before he is sick, he surfs the Pacific.
After he is sick, his faint body is pulled
from the water just in time to know
something is expanding. Leia goes over.
Just as friends, she says.
She sleeps in his bed, makes coffee,
tackles the wild zinnias of the Santa Barbara
hills, bends the flora to her spells.
The brain controls everything
except his nearly lifeless foot
moving to a Steely Dan cover.

All his orchids are crooked in the greenhouse
and the cats are missing. Too many coyotes,
he once said. When he was well,
everything survived. The orchids grew
erect, the coyotes were spineless, and Leia
stitched things together on her porch
exactly half a mile from the ocean.
Does anyone ever die in California,
I wonder. Leia enshrines him with eucalyptus
and Neruda, calls us, sleeps fetal now in LA.
You want to hear a love story, someone says.
Meaning them. Meaning this thing,
not quite knowable to us, her hand
on his laughing foot, the only part still alive,
it seems, the contract of their intimacy
that is not quite love, not quite
anything we’ve seen or can name.

Quentin Compson at the Natural History Museum, Harvard University

You won’t have allergies here.
The flowers are made of glass,
your little spine will become a maple tree.
The orchids, posing like eavesdroppers—
they will make you their Queen.

We will make love on Russian glass,
pickled seeds, roots and stamens,
the translucent xylem of the flowers
pricking our spines.

Couldn’t you die here?
Don’t speak of Father.
Look to the cashew trees.

Remember the wild orchids in the New England wood?
Their veiny leaves and cuticles fresh with vanilla.
These are not fresh, but they inhale.
They can smell your minty breath,
they can bow to your sighs,
they will make soil of your shoulders
and grow you arms.

Caddy, surrounded by glass.
Caddy, surrounded by glass, a little tree inside her.
Caddy, surrounded by glass, smells like trees.

Couldn’t you die here, Caddy?
In all this glass?