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Oni Buchanan

Oni Buchanan is the author of three poetry collections, Must a Violence (Kuhl House Press, 2012), Spring (University of Illinois Press, 2008), winner of the National Poetry Series, and What Animal (University of Georgia Press, 2003), winner of the University of Georgia Contemporary Poetry Series competition. Buchanan is also an accomplished solo pianist, and founder and director of the Ariel Artists management company. She lives in Boston.

By This Poet

4

Dear Lonely Animal,

I'm writing to you from the loneliest, most
secluded island in the world. I mean, 
the farthest away place from anything else.

There are so many fruits here growing on trees
or on vines that wrap and wrap. Fruits
like I've never seen except the bananas.

All night the abandoned dogs howled.
I wonder if one dog gives the first howl, and if 
they take turns who's first like carrying 

the flag in school. Carrying the flag 
way out in front and the others 
following along behind in two long lines, 

pairs holding hands. Also the roosters here crow 
from 4am onward. They're still crowing right now 
and it's almost noon here on the island.

Noon stares back no matter where you are.  
Today I'm going to hike to the extinct volcano 
and balance on the rim of the crater. Yesterday 

a gust almost blew me inside. I heard 
that the black widows live inside the volcano 
far down below in the high grasses that you can't 

see from the rim. Well, I was going to tell you 
that this morning the bells rang and I 
followed them and at the source of the bells, 

there I found so many animals 
all gathered together in a room 
with carved wooden statues

and wooden benches and low wooden slats 
for kneeling. And the animals were there 
singing together, all their voices singing, 

with big strong voices rising from even 
the filthiest animals. I mean, I've seen animals 
come together and sing before, except in 

high fancy vaults where bits of colored glass 
are pieced together into stories. Some days 
I want to sing with them.

I wish more animals sang together all the time.
But then I can't sing sometimes
because I think of the news that happens

when the animals stop singing.  
And then I think of all the medications 
and their side effects that are advertised 

between the pieces of news. And then I think 
of all the money the drug companies spent
to videotape their photogenic, well-groomed animals,

and all the money they spent to buy 
a prime-time spot, and I think, what money 
buys the news, and what news 

creates the drugs, and what
drugs control the animals, and I get so
choked I can't sing anymore, Lonely Animal.  

I can't sing with the other animals. Because it's 
hard to know what an animal will do when it 
stops singing. It's complicated, you know, it's just 

complicated—

Today Mr. Rufo

Today Mr. Rufo died. During a game of bocce ball, 
he leaned on his friend's shoulder and died.
Just five minutes before we found out, Jon and I 
had been walking with our dumb, bourgeois fruit smoothies,
and we stopped by a bush that had all these purple flowers
bursting out of it, and I said, Look how the dead flowers
are a darker purple, a bluish blackish purple
and the live flowers are magenta. Do you think
the dead flowers used to be magenta, or did all 
the darker purple flowers die first?  
(The dead flowers crumpled closed like soggy 
paper umbrellas, while the live ones stretched open, each 
like a child's hand reaching—)

Afterwards, all the family came and assembled and
sat outside together on the patio.  For days, I did not see
Mrs. Rufo. She must have been inside the house
all that time. Meanwhile a big yellow garden spider
built his web above the plot of dirt and weeds 
and wildish plants that's just beside their outside staircase.
It's true that spiders are noiseless, I realized, 
watching the spider in its nonstop industry, listening to the spider.
All of us have read "A noiseless patient spider…" 
but to hear, really, that absence of sound
is something altogether different. Because the soundlessness
is transparent and shaped like a geometric plane.  
It casts a silent white shadow that's bigger 
than the spider is big, and when the spider dies, 
the silence that replaces its silence 
is bigger than the spider's silence was big.

Text Message

oni, u rancorous scam, u  r  no rare ace.
no common sense. no sure win.
no amour. no sex. no career.
no suave swimwear, size six.
no amazonian eminence.
no renaissance in consciousness.
mere ire over asinine nuance.
u  r  so mesozoic era.

u rinse romaine + secure onions.
u use sour cream on venison.
u season noxious wieners.
coarse carnivore, u even wean + crisco sows  
+ worse, simmer simian viscera   
+ savor maximum cinnamon.
moreover, u evince ruinous manners.

ever since u came,
nauseous raccoons swoon + swerve near cars in manassas, va.
immense moose rave averse in maine.
monas wince in cameroon + zaire.
caimans careen in irreverence in so. american rivers.
nice vicunas amaze in serious cusses.
ewe emissions serve as severe consensus.
vermin vow never near.
even sea anemones voice censure.
wrens, vireos, caracaras, anis, emus, swans, macaws, canaries + cranes
maroon u, swear avian au revoir.
messiaen concurs.
eminem weaves mean verses on u.

o, oni, scorn us now,
now ur careworn carcass awes us.
a carrion-crow carves ur cameo, no
novocaine. incisive. immune.
nerve minus nerve is zero, or
noose, noon, nirvana: an
oceanic oasis. a rearview mirror.
can u recover now, oni?
can u crown ur cranium now, 
can u rise in ur worm ascension?

we are ur vice, ur versus, ur
vice-versa, ur mesmeric new avarice, 
ur concussion, ur amnesia (a caesura is u now, oni.)
(a caesura is ur new maison, ur caisson casa.)
we are ur arsenic, ur assassin, 
ur anemia, ur anorexia nervosa.
we consume u, corrosive. we assess u.
we are ur vision, ur rescue mission, ur anima, 
u. we use u. ur winsome camera crew:

coroner, commence exam, + camera man, zoom in:
a waxen woman, wear-worse.
corneas, ears + nose aswarm.  
some recession on cranium.
venomous incisors, enormous.
varicose veins.
cursive arms over cavernous core.  
nurse: scissors, ammonia.  
carve in, coroner: mince, examine:
carmine amnion. uranium in urine.  
in marrow, one amino amiss.