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Poem for Katie

Dear coyote head understand the way I want to kiss you
like an inland sigh a heaviness mist that spreads redwoods
stones silver calls out the crow buried in teeth.

 

Deer kisser know I am two unsteady feet
tumbling blindly through the woods behind your house

 

listen and you will hear quiet            then
the sound of my voice singing

 

a hymn hummed red dark under the light of a porch.

 

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A Swedish Photographer in Finland Photographs My Mother in an Abandoned House in the Forest

 At the time she is pregnant with me and my sister, and has started using the house as a place to take shelter from the often chilly arms of the woods. At first she approached the empty rooms with caution, taking care not to be seen climbing through a window somebody else had opened, stepping lightly over the waffled pages of newsprint from a time before she was born.

 Once while she was inspecting the bespeckled mirror above the fireplace, a vulture took off from the chimney in a great sweep of sound and feathers, my mother uttered an audible chirp which surprised even her. When she would hear a rustle in the scrub beyond the cellar door, or footsteps near the front of the house as if people were coming, she’d rush to hide herself in whatever quick spot was available– the darkness of a closet, under the kitchen sink. Never were these instances true to her suspicions, not a single time during her explorations was she disturbed.

 Two months have passed since she first discovered the house, by now she moves about its dusty halls as if they were her own; and excepting the pairs of hunched black wings which roost on the roof and a variety of unnameable spiders, they are. A corner of the living room is cluttered with bits of things she’s brought in from outside or assembled from the previous owners– pieces of old blue glass, shards of pottery, a key from one of the doors upstairs. She is on her way to add to the collection a tuft of down from a pheasant when he catches her.

 In the frame only her head is visible, she is obviously startled by the sound of the zooming lens, the shutter’s sudden kiss on the cheek of her privacy. Her eyes are dilated by the shadow of the afternoon, ears perked at an angle looking to explain. The feather is mid-drop in her petite hands, her ringed tail still hidden under the house.

Open Season

What the deer head wants is what the deer head gets. What you want is the deer head to stop hovering over you when you are trying to sleep, to stop lurking just outside the gauzy curtain while you soap your testicles, to stop being the car in your rearview mirror in which you can only see the driver’s hands. But they’re not hands, they’re the deer head. Deer head at the drive-thru, faking a northern city accent over the speaker, floating you your latte at the window. Deer head as a bank teller wearing a white collar, glass eyes dully reflecting your overdrawn account. Would you like to open an additional checking? You can get a new book of checks or a credit card with a deer head on it. The bank’s logo is a deer head, there is a deer head on the pen you are holding. Deer head is on the radio as you avalanche homeward, hosting a contest open to all other deer heads: who can find you fastest? Deer head on every station, on your iPod, on your cell phone. Deer head enters his number in place of the number for your mother, your sister, your best friend from high school until all your contacts are deer head. You try to send a text message to the world: HELP ME. Deer head responds via satellite with a picture of himself standing in your bedroom.

Tender black nose wet
grazing soft white cotton fields
your underwear drawer.

love letter

DEAR LADYBUGS HELLO.

YOU DO NOT KNOW ME BUT I LOVE YOU.
AS A WHOLE AND AS INDIVIDUALS.

I WANT TO MIX POLLEN AND SUGAR AND NECTAR AND WATER.
AND SPRAY IT ON MYSELF.
AND LET YOU CRAWL ON ME.

USE YOUR 1,500 BLACK LADYBUG TONGUES.
SO SMALL THEY ARE NEARLY A ONE-CELLED ORGANISM.
USE THE PARAMECEUMS OF YOUR MOUTHS TO DRINK.
THE SWEETNESS I HAVE MADE FOR YOU.

DEAR LADYBUGS I WANT TO MARRY YOU.
FOR MY DOWRY I SHALL GIVE 100,000 APHIDS EACH.
I WILL FEED THE APHIDS SUGARCANE.
PAPYA.
PEANUT.
THEY WILL BE THE BEST-TASTING APHIDS YOU HAVE EVER.
EATEN.
AND YOU WILL LOVE ME.

LADYBUGS IN THIS VISION I HAVE YOU ARE ALL AROUND ME.
WE SLEEP IN A GARDEN BED I HAVE MADE JUST FOR US.
I BURROW MY FINGERS INTO THE EARTHEN.
BIG WHITE ROOTS.
BUT THEY DO NOT TAKE AT FIRST.
I START TO WORRY.
I WONDER IF 155,000,000 APHIDS WILL BE ENOUGH.
I BEGIN TO DOUBT MY ABILITY TO PROVIDE FOR YOU AND PROTECT.
THIS FAMILY.
SOME NIGHTS I WEEP.
I CONTEMPLATE THE PH BALANCE OF MY OWN SALTED HUMAN TEARS.

THINK I AM RUINING THE SOIL.
THIS WILL NEVER WORK, I TELL MYSELF.
THE APHIDS WILL NOT EAT.

JUST WHEN THINGS GET WORSE.
WHEN MY ARMS AND LEGS FEEL LIKE PUNKY DEADENED WOOD.
WHEN I OVERHEAR YOU TALKING ON YOUR BUG PHONES ABOUT LEAVING.
MY PINKY TOE.
GROWS A LEAF.

I LAUGH AS YOU CLIMB OVER MY TEETH.
YOUR FEET MAKE HUNDREDS OF SQUEAKS.
I SPEND WHOLE DAYS JUST GROWING ANTHERS.
THEY ARE TALL AND FAT WITH MICROSPORANGIA.
WHICH TURN INTO MICROGAMETOPHYTES.
WHICH BECOMES POLLEN.
WHICH SPREADS.
I SCATTER MYSELF INTO THE PARKING LOT.
AND BEYOND IT.

MY PHLOEM SPRING RUNS WARM AND SYRUPY.
APHIDS EVERYWHERE OPEN THEIR BEAKS.
AND DRINK.

I THINK OF YOU AND KEEP UNFURLING.

poem for Jennifer Lawrence

this is not what you think it is          this is what it feels like
the thing that holds me like a radio
the first time i heard the theme song for
“The Titanic”
when i was eight.

this is me asking the important ones, like
is Jennifer Lawrence kissing me?
is Jennifer Lawrence kissing a flower is
Jennifer Lawrence sitting on a park bench dressed up in weeds?

i wrote you a song
it is called “animal dance” or
“blue dress”
or “cat
nap.”

is Jennifer Lawrence your real name? can i say it if i think you might be more of
an Apache Plume or a Mountain Jewelflower?
Elephant Heads or Little Red Elephants?

i am kidding, look at me     simple
trying to turn you California
into a place everyone wants to go.

in the sedge grass, a small white ring. the letter “s” in cursive sparkler. it is winter somewhere; july in my window. you are the arrowhead under my pillow.

i have a moon in my pocket and a pocket owl.
is Jennifer Lawrence giving the downy bird of her cheek unto a kitten’s face and
can that kitten be me?
or am i the moment of fur as she recedes?

is Jennifer Lawrence kissing the lantern
i leave on inside of my heart for her
is she out there in her plainclothes
on the step beneath the porch glow asking softly to
be let in?

this is what you keep for yourself:      this is the midnight
the night you find the note in the wall     of the wall that has been wondering
if there is another just like it somewhere, and there is
on the other side of the world.

crapcrapcrap.

i looked nice today.
that was one thing that happened
hitting a cat with my car is another.
before this i was exceptionally good
at not hitting cats, so
i was unprepared for the flash of white
flight feathers ushering out an animal to asphalt
or the distressing emails that followed:

dear thursday morning, end of june,
we regret to inform you a drastically negative change
has occurred or
is occurring.

or,
dear retail job, i’m gonna be late.

or,
dear gray and white tabby,
i’m sorry and
are you ok?

i got out and looked put my palms to the gravel
still feeling the thick and the thud
in my ankles and legs for no body
parked under the cars or in the street, not a streak
of oklahoma sky-colored down holding onto the hood
the way a snowflake does to something larger,
more fibrous. the way they melt or pile into what
rushed up to meet them
what they become.

i took the car because i had therapy at two,
which was fine except i had to take the car
and then i had to talk about not being able to find the cat
after i hit it.

bobcat prayer

you know what it’s like, you’ve had those dreams
the ones where the iconic horse does not come
delivering a ghost message, where there
is no goat chant-peeling out of its bones.
when instead you go to the yard of your old house and
your grandfather is there ready to forgive you,
who you have loved.

i asked the bobcat to send me a vision
i don’t know if she did.
visions are scarce these days, it makes me
want to try weed or eat meat.

i made myself ready for an emptiness
but not this kind.

i thought i would bear feather children or see the last thing
you did before you died. bobcat,
i am on the floor of bedroom you sleep
sideways inside me bleating the lamb heart
of the highway left out and bluebottle-bound
part sky burial for you raisin-pink carrion,
part ground. the cat under my house is speaking in tongues
he leaves line-shaped choirs between the stove and where
the sink is. he looks different in the dream,
younger. i think of you how your coat must have smelled
after a kill and in rain

we have to help each other.

Image

new phenomenon

when we were born they placed us in two separate rooms. same house, same corn hemming the yard, same dog tied to a tree. i’m not capable of believing anything bad ever happened to us. everyone knows how to ignore. the incandescent moth seizuring over the bathroom sink. the apple turns brown before you can eat. the tick bites inside the ear. you in the rose room and me in the yellow. both girls. both girls. not like that, not like one and then the other. two. both at the same time.

i thought you knew: we are all wounded. my cross is having an always interesting life, you’ll know it when you see me walking in the fountain, when the spring fog becomes my bed and i an aster. star flower, five points, alabaster hide. she buried her baby under a windmill, that is my mother. its teeth are perfect. i wondered about the other side of wallpaper. a mouse scratched through and i saw stars.

the house in my mind sinks through the floor.

i am lonely and miss my animal self.
or else i am living it all the time and it is awful.

weird sounds: the bellgoat

bellgoat comes from over the mountain. a bellgoat is
your neighbor growing out her hair. bellgoat knows
the anatomy by heart
of every dream in which you will end up running after something
you can’t see.

a bellgoat, incapable of lying, lying in a cape on the shore.
(this sentence intimates a cape: a body of water engulfed by sound
in the “c” shape.)

what will become of me? i ask over
and over. bellgoat tunes the fork to the sound
of my asking
plays it back: “dunnnnnnnn.” the sound of hooves
not moving.

what i learned about first impressions was this:
you cannot be a god if you’ve stepped over the pollen offering
or if you’ve thought about it. people will kill you.

the morning the pesticide plant blew to pieces my heel
rubbed in my sandal.
i wear sandals now.
tall ones.
when i want to feel legs.

bellgoats don’t pick zits, they plant the seed in your mind of a zit
and then you get one. you pick. because you
have always picked, because you can’t help but pick
when you get nervous. the whole mathematic of the problem is
a rivulet of hard putty beneath the surface.

you can rhyme if it will make you feel better
but it won’t.

new chapbook- DIRT GODS

i am gleeful to announce that my first chapbook, DIRT GODS, is now available from Codorus Press! DIRT GODS features poems seen here, on eulonia country, and a previously unpublished 13 part poem starring santa marfa. 

we are running a limited first edition of only 26 copies, each hand printed, signed, with cover artwork hand carved and block-printed by me. if you would like to order a copy for $17, please contact me at ipoetography@gmail.com. 

thanks!

–insley