R. Miller CC
I Have Swallowed the Woods for Lungs
and laid woven grasses at her feet,
my penance, my question always the same:
do you walk with death as I do?
I worshiped the woods until
she answered me, when I soaked into her,
pieces of me burrowing into the knots
of trees, coiling alumroot, shivering
in the scream of an unseen barn owl.
When she began to offer dead moths
spread wide-winged and acorn caps
and shelter from rain, when she began
to pray for me, I lost some part of my name
to her, lost the Latin for I am hollow,
don’t you see and bless me with all
this breathing. I wept in her December
arms, numbed myself in her snow, looking
up through branches, my voice
wanting to know, and knowing: when did I grow so tall?
And the Feathers Will Rot, One by One
If I say dead bird, was it ever alive
to begin with? This permanence
the curse of body, this thingness the weight
of bone. Lifeless neck is still neck,
snapped in reverent prayer, eyes dark
and flat, every door closing. On his chest
a blooming black that identified him when alive
and reminds him of blood, now.
He holds his wings close, a last comfort,
and tells me you are as real as I am
and I say no, I never existed, stop
calling in the night I will not answer you.
He haunts me only as an after, his words
wet and drowning, a stick prodding his left side.
I pick plums and feed them
to dead birds. When a candle has burnt,
the wax pools a dress at its feet, absent flame
disrobed. Death comes so often honeyed: fallen
pears plump with their sugar, leaves
to float and burn in piles, the eyes
of a deer laid out at the side of the road.
Don’t let all this amber fool you:
We were never saints. As a child, I wielded
broken branch as scalpel, pried bird
from bird body, found softness in the back,
between the wings. I do not renounce
the found things in my pockets, the sliver
of moon I secreted in the sole of a shoe.
I do not pray over corpses watching me walk,
leaving my morning with this taste
in its mouth, all the bitter flowers.
Mary Simmons is from Cleveland, Ohio and is an MFA candidate at Bowling Green State University. She is an assistant editor for Mid-American Review.
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