Arch open, retract shoulders like stubs of wings: primordial fern emerges out of
frontal lobe feathered with large naked sporangia on underside of leaf
segments, deeply aggregated into clusters. Sugared spleenwort as vascular
and evolutionary as unfurling ovules: most heterosporous, our fiddleheads
touching. Homeward thus all cycades—developing papery pollen strobili on
modified stem axes, anthers of stamens stretching or damaging: you have to
understand this is cryptogamous application, prickly maidenhair alchemy to maken
ashen glas! Hairfoot, Lady, Staghorn . . . the weevils, moths and other
thieves—fringed and thatching—creep toward us. Even birds of raupo reeds. Buds,
I’m telling you: characteristically still inside; home-sickness, this, heading
backward but you don’t have to take my word for it. Look at the fossils.
Invertebrate now, soft parts but eroded inner disarticulation of muscles
and a girdle; caught in drift along strandlines. I’d like to go home,
she insists. How long are we staying in the hotel? Incontinent, a shell
of shadows—and shallows: we’re at the edge itself, where increased
erosion from tidal walls is disrupting flow and sensitive dwellings. Prey:
regurgitates grit of chitinous matter, leaving gobbets
of inedible remnants. Rough coffin. One wishes for grace. Finds sediment.
To go nameless, the peculiarity
of a spiny tree—spiked with oval chartreuse apples—
rooted near a brackish salt pond nursery for birds we can’t see or identify
on a road disappearing into tangled mangroves. Nearby, hooves scuffle
in scrub, wild donkeys, I suppose, on land grazed by cattle, owned
by people we don’t know. Maybe: manzanilla de la muerte,
"little apple of death”—our guidebooks say if you stand under it in rain
your skin blisters; burn its wood and smoke fogs your eyes.
Caribs soaked arrow-tips in its poison sap. We walk around
intertwining trunks, not knowing where we are, not caring—
we are on vacation, but are sure we will arrive
home, one hand in the other’s, content, not sensing harm
in the woods, nor in our fingertips, although we’re certain to use it, sure to forgive.
Do you know the other phrase for ring finger? Nameless one. Now
“rare,” but in many languages—German, for instance—
believed to be a magical digit with a vein running straight to the heart.
Page Hill Starzinger lives in New York City. Her first full-length poetry book, Vestigial, selected by Lynn Emanuel to win the Barrow Street Book Prize, was published in Fall 2013. Her chapbook, Unshelter, selected by Mary Jo Bang as winner of the Noemi contest, was published in 2009. Her poems have appeared in Colorado Review, Fence, Kenyon Review, Pleiades, Volt, and many others.