Frost came finally into the cabin and bit by bit over the windows
The cataracts of snow with their dismantling shadows
Hands over all the things inside
As if dipped into the pool of earth from one above
And rank with inscrutable perfumes
Winter that year came with such a grace
For the beauty was fierce and kept at the heels
Of each soul-crushing thing—
To tend and herd the sorrows further in
Yellow touches me to pieces
this night, unkindly
with a stranger's queasiness.
I feel distantly ill
held like a canary a bit too tight
or a gold watch bursting in a
plain of heath.
As you are friendless now
and buried in spirits
and the earth's smell of turning
like the rain,
not even empathy can reach you.
My feelers search instead
beneath the moors
touching at some inscrutable
thing, wrenched between the stones
and mute loam, touching back at me
like sound, like the thin mews
of a violin.
If I could only speak to it the red halls
of my throat might cleave like lilies.
with only my pale blue instinct I
pushed aside the crate's coinage
and brushed the queerer circlet
shoved beneath straw:
the creature was awake,
a lithe glint of coil, amber-eyed,
wasp pupil, a crown.
my hand on it
or was it:
seized and taken, my hand―
and how did it go, my memory asks
of the cells' swarm of parts and
set the gold upon my brow, then―
from system to system the eyes
of one dissolve the eyes of another.
I recall it was nothing of madness,
but cannot recall how:
black block of bodies and the wonted
speed of us, our venoms poised inside
our motions with grace, such intimate
acquaintance with the breeze, the wide
balconies of leaves:
beneath the crown I
became a thousand swift masteries
of another order:
how many circles inscribed
in a sphere
―but this tells nothing, nothing
of the voice
who troubled each magnet in us
and pronounced what I cannot
ever again call near,
though it was something like the air
seeking each part of me out,
each black arm
as if all of it were a single strain
and roaring like waves
one atop the other, its breaching
and astonishment, its song
upon my parts:
Amphibian, is it?
What surprising color,
the light-starved belly turning up
and raising greenness from the spray
A nearing savage skin
where something's writ.
In the runnel tracts it beats
―what thing is this?
Are you such
that I remember you?
All this time the world
has escaped belonging.
I say to the green
scent of wind : what's belonging?
These crops still rising
obscure the place beneath:
perhaps a woman is there.
Often I ask what mercies
such a form can fetch.
She is from the river beneath the river.
There, abound things swimming
and too much bearing of their weight.
I lie there with her in the stream,
marveling, though not wanting
to see the course reeds stiffening
in her hair,
or her eyes with the dusk of our cities
falling down into a sleep of moss.
Mostly I look in:
I watch her speaking with blood
to the animals, to the ripening inside.
The redemption of a tree! A tree is
without name, a tree is without
any possession whatsoever
but her broad back bent on it
drenched the leaves
the infinite burns
and her hand uncurtaining
in the thick mask of skins
Trunk to trunk—
and the rattling leaves said be with us
The hours tumble down from a geode's seam.
Bits catch the light, some shapes edge
against the mind's tendrils, and experience
catches like rain in a cobble rift―
It is november, I can hear the tearing
of the crust, the gristbite below us
working in its sleep, and another afternoon
I am sprawled over mattress,
a stupor of color almost in reach.
It is hours after the planks have quit me.
I could not walk to the next room:
not when the crown makes me swarm.
And the body alone is a labyrinth,
room within room: root,
Drills screamed in the grey hands of men
suspended up among the wires
Bulbs flicking darkness
to the strung-up houses and floors
Wafted up—the jiggering strains
of motors, hulking canopied beds
Rattling with dimension
the worker's roars—
It was all in gear when I slipped between
two buildings for quiet, all unceasing above
When the sudden woman
bursting out from between the walls—
Flogged me—two black marbles gleaming
and a wild intensity:
A face of overripe biologies,
distended cortex of a brain, two fists
And chops having hungered in the hollows.
The gears above kept on churning noise—
I thought for a moment I could hear
the black sod buried under everything,
Its dampening breast
To take up my sounds:
Lung-struck, smack of limbs, red wind
Instrument of neck—
all crunched into the steam's
Hiss, noisy brass, the small wirings
singing like locusts from every panel:
unobtrusive, scarcely noted.
What could I do but wander into its silence?
For the city rose around me
it was there before my birth
men building it even as I left it:
The towers leaning toward me. The fat walls
gorged on their own enamel histories—
Between those devouring clutches:
streaming out, my mind imagining
more than the mind could imagine on its own,
the mind spilling out of abstraction,
the timeless turning, turning—
The wind entering my body
so at last I could taste the Earth
The crude salts packed in clay
I passed the bright things of the sea
Those glistening bodies
deep with whalesong
I passed their intelligent eyes and mouths
their broad arms that cut the water
their complicated brains shaped like eternity
I passed infinitely each particle of planet
I gave my feet to the marsh of fire
until I came finally again to myself:
To blood in the ears,
the drum of the extinct
To the last wild river
of my dying
At last—my dying
And the centuries of men moving down
like grains in the arms of ants.
Stephanie Rose Adams is the author of The Sundering, selected by Linda Gregg for a 2009 New York Chapbook Fellowship. Her poems have appeared in Guernica Magazine, The Boston Review, Orion Magazine, and others; she is also a frequent contributor of nonfiction to Sharkpack Poetry Review. In addition to her work in poetry, Stephanie is working on a collection of photographs and lyric essays about her experiences with ethnic Hmong families in northern Vietnam. Stephanie lives in the Pacific Northwest where she teaches poetry, serves on the board of The Whole Dog Academy, and continues to develop the ultra-top-secret Secret Message Project (www.secretmessageproject.wordpress.com).
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