I received a photo from a man
with a scar like mine,
the shape of it like a fish hook,
Once when my skin was open,
everything the color orange poured
out of me.
I’m different now, my
body introduced to itself
again and again.
I am regrown, my own wound
less of a fish hook
and more of a diagram,
something I once saw
in a science book.
I read somewhere that people should
donate their blood.
I read somewhere that
type O is the most abundant, followed by A, and
so on. Somewhere in my veins,
I feel a collection of cells, too many to count,
a burden I couldn’t put on
When I write, I don’t think about who will read it. I
am regrown, but even if I’m not,
I am the artist.
If I had to choose a color, it
Tikopia Island, Pacific Ocean
I smell the stench. No buried breadfruit.
No swamp taro. No bruised bananas.
No sand-sucking clams. Limp, empty nets.
Wasted, women hold hot stones to their bellies,
& desperation rows sons into the open mouth
of a sun-licked sea. Down-to-bone starving
as far as tomorrow.
I have a vision: a father asks a new mother,
Whose is this child no field can feed?
He lays the newborn’s face on tufa.
Winds of what afflict me take
this soft spirit over the lake’s
brackishness, over the black horizon.
No one but me wails as it goes.
Karla Linn Merrifield
Starburst in the morning sky
of crisscrossed contrails—
where is everyone going
in every direction?
I can only account for myself,
my destination no farther
than the intersection
of Bayshore and Baypointe
and back, a mere easy mile on foot,
and twice past five empty benches
where in later years he would sit,
catch his breath, ease muscle pain,
and watch the kingfishers, remembering
a day he did twelve circuits in fewer hours,
leaving every shady seat to the feeble.
Those are the empty benches
I recall as I stride by them.
Scarce water, yet the myrtle’s peach petals
umbrella the ground. Black bees
bore stars into the grape arbor.
Up close, a plaid spider knits a plaid web.
First day of school, students allowed
to go barefoot until frost.
Cedar’s thick trunk seems made of rusty burlap.
In deep shade, the rose climber’s once red buds
(Altissimo variety) compete
with incomplete dominance,
transform to pink and white zebra stripes.
The glass of Chenin Blanc left on the patio overnight,
brims over with buttery chips of Baltic amber.
Paraffin saved to seal wild berry jam
sculpts into a great white.
Bored with whimpering doves,
I order a flock of blood-orange migrating parrots.
Fluffy petunias emit their tangy odor—
stimulating as the air on Madagascar.
In pale sun I sleep on the deck and imagine
a thrush feeding on winterberries.
Paolo’s House Emilia Romagna
above fields of stones tilled
& stacked into long
walls & a few
scattered houses fireflies
flicker & float through mulberry
trees cicadae seethe
then murmur lone
bird warbles last
notes fade in warm
breeze weathered glyphs
sway on cracked stucco walls shadow
priests turning day
to dusk of red
bread a languid waft
of roses while hills bowed
like monks beneath darkening cowls
chant the evening
—for Spike and Fang Fang
seventeen years under this ground they’ve sipped
rain siphoned through blades of grass
suckled roots of black walnuts maples a single magnolia
a million beneath this acre
last night they climbed through the dark
tiny hills of crumbled dirt
up tree trunks & the sides
of an old red garage
shed their root/yellow
carapace & emerged pale
& white a large red
eye on either side of their head
three tiny red marks between
their wings wet shriveled
unfold translucent in the morning
& lift their now florescent
green bodies in
to the flickering canopy a chorus
of male sopranos (one’s highest note
a female’s drum if sung
by her ear) swells
& fills the light at noon
drenches the air becomes a desperate
carnival of maracas a frenzy
of rattles then bursts
into joyous scatterings
six weeks for the eggs to hatch
for the blind nymphs
to form then fall
from the trees for the earth
to take them in
what of dust, of fortune telling,
of lightning coming too soon?
what will I become?, I wondered,
whispering to the moon
she told me I already know,
I know from where I came;
the rest is right in front of me,
try dusting off my name
I first learned how to breathe for singing.
My teacher told me to put one hand on my side and the other hand on my sternum. “Your lungs should expand on all sides. Inhale through your nose, exhale through your mouth, slowly letting the air hiss out of your lips, a long string of sound.”
When people get nervous, they forget to breathe or they breathe too much.
When people exercise, they often grow stiff like dry branches. Breathing should be a natural function of the human body, yet it amazes me how easy it is to forget.
Tyler Durden says, “Oxygen gets you high. In a catastrophic emergency, you’re taking panicked breaths. Suddenly you become euphoric, docile. You accept your fate.”
I want to accept my fate.
Breathing also gives me the illusion of control. When I jog, I breathe to the rhythm of my strides. The physical struggle to stay calm and keep going despite the burning constriction I feel in my lungs, that expresses something within me.
I can endure the weight, of myself, of the air, this context.
Afterward comes catharsis, the post-run collapse in the grass staring at
quivering leaves on branches above.