Unto Ourselves (1)

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Firs trembled at the edge of a massive debris flow
in the asphalt-heat of summer
just between you and me, said the field guide
in an undertone leaning forward, you have to
get beyond the expectation that you’re
ever going to pull things together
it was a queer thing to say in a queer time
we use a gender-neutral pronoun we said
to which she answered Whoever
thought anyone was just one thing?
when we got back my friends were jumpy
Did you see the quindes?
Did you see the tucusitos?
The picaflores, the chupamirtos— are they over there?
Across the wall?
What of the huichichiquis?
Don’t tell me you blinked as it hovered face to your face
fanning you with the mill of its wings, the guide said
no b.s. did you see the huitzillo?
we admitted we’d witnessed the chuparosa in Petaluma
a large blue-throated one up from Mexico
but the tzunún fled too soon
as if it knew what we would do to its garden
where sheathed filaments of cyanobacteria
wakened by winter rains were serpentining through the soil
leaving long sticky trails through the evening
while we stood on our porch and admired
the soft edges of things in moonlight as though
we were in a Gerhard Richter painting or some seductive
image from an advertising campaign
developing in a bath of chemicals
how to restore our sense of shared reality?
we tried walking in someone else’s shoes but
fuck that really it was sham,
like frogs HAZMAT trucks were beeping as they
reached their destination down the block
though who could take notice
with their eyes glued to the new pilot
the reporter didn’t say fire tomato he said
fire tornado the abyss with one eye
was there only inconsequential difference
between I contain multitudes and be sure
to like us or those other hortatory sops
we told each other to make the unbearable bearable?
our extrafloral nectaries were still attracting insects
despite we’d sprayed them with Round-Up
the spidery bass player kept to his corner of the stage
as one world is bound to another by silence
and catfacing always infects the blossom-side
in the middle of the argument we saw that
we approach each other like two regions of warped space
swallowing the gravitational screams
emitted from our merging holes
and though we’ll admit to a certain amount of preening and swanking
each assumes our own is the meat-forward dish
You’re kidding, I overheard the guide say, really? That’s
what you did with your life? So
the lonely night was adjourned like a can of green paint
splashed onto the dining car’s windows as we watched
lengths of border wall rush past and go by
the conductor’s recorded voice said Make use of thy salt hours
for already thou art deep within the affliction

Forrest Gander’s books include Core Samples from the World, and several books of translation: Fungus Skull Eye Wing: Selected Poems of Alphonso D'Aquino, Watchword by Pura López Colomé, and (with Kyoko Yoshida) Spectacle & Pigsty: Selected Poems of Kiwao Nomura.

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