Must it be this way, the air no longer wet, seamless,
longer ours, becoming the cicada's path
from night-blooming cereus to creosote,
summer of moth larva rolling in the rice jar?
If so, let the heat rise over these desert mountains,
and cover this city.
If so, begin with sadness, sadness,
it is a good place to start,
because heat is a sadness of its own,
I cannot begin to define it,
except for that first awareness as a child,
dim ache of the wrist, on a night like this,
years ago in a different south, the silent acknowledgment
a thing so spread out and weightless it becomes a landscape
of radio towers across the fields, red lights flickering
the marsh's conspiratorial hum.
Ask me and I will tell you of the flowering tobacco
my youth on fire in the night, lit by lightning,
the sweet wind pushing the flames
the tree-break and into the stables
where my father sat on a three-legged stool birthing
see night burning is to see God, or a minor version:
angelic palette, grub-white cataracts of summer.
see Father is to see night long for the sea.
This is how we live within us,
to the land.
White peacocks aflame can sing the song
flight, I think, of rain and June:
ash-plumed amniotic sac:
shoveled into the cantaloupe rows.
Alexander the Great, after observing the depths
the ocean from a glass barrel said Sir Barons,
I have just seen that this whole world is lost,
the great fish mercilessly devour the lesser.
Call me lesser then, I don't mind it.
This morning an airplane lifted over the city, the
a pale child's toy, and left this desert behind.
A cactus wren danced mid-flight with a cicada,
yes, but truth, too, and even a certain perfectness,
both catching the last breath of early light,
filled with a promise,
to not give in, to die in this air a truthful death,
this land that should never have been ours.
The hunger of fire becomes a landscape of its own,
alternate world: to harvest, to harvest.
My father mutinied the mother mare
took the foal to the marsh, delicate like a kite,
and drowned her.
what if the moon sang of its rising then?
I was courageous, wind-strong,
grew to fit that brackish air,
Later, he walked the fields with me in his arms,
the roasted copperheads, spun me
through that black sea, a smoke sail tied on
handkerchief dabs. This would be our life.
Black: it hurt to look at it. Empty: I had to love
he held my wrist against a stalk blue as plum,
still smoldering, so I couldn't forget,
that heat stayed with me forever.
For Adam and Emily Chiles
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