A Cargo of Green Hearts
it’s fair, said the crow, these black
feathers and voice like gargling on nails
what they call us when we gather:
murder—as if we contrived to
peck out hearts. the earth has
clothed us in ashes and death
and there is endless need for those
things, I know—but sometimes in the
night when wind gives up whistling
and the owl's electric eye stalks us to
shivering onto the plank of a branch
I am no longer of death
am indistinguishable from dark
alone and freed to sing a high blue note
or burst into flame, not
able to hold onto whatever you
make of me.
it is said, before my time
before naming, we were
white birds born of snow
who dipped ourselves
down from the poles to
quench a fire that
would eat the entire planet.
once you take on suffering
there is no going back
you are the cloth of the
ghats thence forward.
sometimes I compose a hoarse poem
or laugh madly or fall into
a kiss as if to break my bones on it.
always, I am wearing these same
feathers but not getting any younger.
but the flying, the way earth looks
small and gifted as a seed I might peck
up and plant in some faraway,
sane dirt--well, tell me
what you would not trade for that.
a last wish: to be carted out
on the ice after supper.
let the moon drag that
silver leg over me and
we'll see what's left.
I am aware of the fish
those old monks who've
given up on air. what a deep
blue world they pray in.
their lips pursed up
to steal something from
the sad sky. it's all in the
leaning, what the trees do
to also surrender: extend,
throw some weight into
it, break the wooden ankles.
easy to miss the crickets,
frogs, face of an old lover.
I am so lonely now, all
in white on a supposedly
red day. "try breathing,"
a familiar voice says
and as if it makes sense,
I am thinking about the vocation
of snow, the cold laundry attendant
tasked with bleaching creation
how the small fingered snowflakes
knuckle into rolling white blankets
as if to make whole the land we have
gouged with our machines as if
to silence our bee-voices
and dull the daggered corners.
to think one might press an ear
to the frigid window and hear
a voice, like static at first, subtle
as the footfall of millipedes
then after hours of listening
making sense at last of the sky
singing softly to each flake the
secrets of falling without screaming
of landing without a sound as
if having been and always
belonged right there.
oh heart, to live in these times.
boldly go now, the dark birds;
a small hand on the clock
bullies midnight. I am not strong
without you; like an empty walnut
shell, this chest. my hand, a rotten
stick. if I speak without you
my consonants like weak glass
shiver. there was a time when
you were so immense I could not
contain you. had to tear all the
door frames out of my house.
every last rib had a hinge.
I would open and throw wet
dollops of you to anyone
who passed, to wolves, to cannibals
I had plenty to spare. now I blow
on what remains like a man in
a storm trying to convince a fire.
we all have work to do, the brazing
of bones. I claim this red task as mine.
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