“hic svnt dracones”
-The Lenox Globe (ca. 1503 – 1507)
In the country of your childhood, country of the crossroad, of the
winged creature at the hour of its extinction, you put a secret in the ground
to kill the secret & the ground goes black. Now the ground is buried
by blank snow, your mercenary name, & the strange, red swell of a barn
swallow’s belly, deranged by a bracelet of teeth: all thoughts you thought desire
erased through its existence. The starved months wheel overhead, weight
-less like a map that carries no weight but the country that tattoos it,
& as truthful. They know that the sun rides over the rider of all fantastic
beasts that surge to their world’s edge. They lie & wait, for you
are not the rider. You run riddled by the wide knife of your old name
& the snow of the country swallows the sounds it made. The swallow
goes black. The germ bucks up through the black. O germ in the frantic
husk of the feeling body. Beware. It’s war. Unfold. You learn fire & fire
learns you. It has followed you here before. It feeds you through
the year like a jet skein of mane through an original fist & chariots
from the canopy to snow to belly to black to the edge of your name.
Tongues of ash break off small bites of the map & its body. What’s left
calls itself firstborn, final leg, lone backbone the length of an arrow
shot, the mark flown, a badland, fauna played out in the dark.
After you, I begin at the Natal Plum:
a babe with one hand
stuck in the terracotta O of my first jaw.
When I bite back the garden grows back. Then
The red eye-fruit of the Mirabelle
tree does and I watch the tiny pome
hang itself, determined bloody bell.
A wasp drags its breast up the wall
of the stink-sweet Hosannah pitcher,
stuffed, half-taxidermied by lust.
Mimosa touches herself beneath a tree-
and you, still everywhere, slight pollen.
One thing races itself against its time
and then another, but like a pale twin
I keep my hand on the throat of every small death.
I scream when Carnosa compacta cannot,
think, Don’t come back. I do my best
to mean it, stripped down beneath the Hindu Rope
vine. I’ll be moving like a girl’s loose dread-
lock, like a cane of Wasted Ophelia, rocked
at the root in a bower of weeds.
Through a Glass Through Which We Cannot See
ourselves, a dead star is the only luminary
around for years. We see it a temple, then
sack it. I needed something, so I sang it.
O my Jupiter, magnetic war-dreamer who still
swings by & low-I couldn’t wear my red, red
storm on the bright outside for five hundred years.
I was a part, all surface, madly mirrored
across the world, just a stare, & kissing
back a false dreamer in the basement-shrine.
The sofa would make no amends for being an altar.
The moon, too, had to be hauled up from there; once
now forever a needle, she tattooed the sweeping rib of
sky with the shape of a young woman’s bark.
Once, I saw the alarming & cooled heart of myself,
the swallower & expert of damage but not of repair
in myself, & found new ways to give it all
away. Made a gun of two fingers & a thumb, jerked
to the throat, hunting & hunting & turning in the dark.
& O bright star of disaster, I have been lit.
Yearling & Armor
I am here, at last, dressed in plain mustard and tiger,
carrying on with my heart-claw and faulty calendar,
the old fetishes-spit and spice and the sea-loaded
behind my teeth. Another year, another armor,
though I was told otherwise. Another way of speaking:
What if the body had been a spell and he broke it. Or
a city, half-woken, and he blazed it. Inside, a voice
prays for the bantam mouthing off at the anti-dawn
to silence or become other, entirely: fire
-bird feeding off ash, or a photograph of somebody
brave. What if my face had been a sign so I painted it,
time’s direction rolling back and back like a maiden’s
domesticating spine, and what the body had in store
for itself-potential seeds and starry cloves stacking the inner
shelf-was pulled into the mouth of the ocean. So on,
another city, new, almost. What if I knew I would pay
all for entrance, to be entranced, or else to almost
always be. And if I let hot ritual wrap its arms about me.
Then another, and another. And felt the body move again
like a mouthful of sea, or a yearling in the armory.