Jeremy Pataky's work has appeared in Crab Creek Review, Square Lake,
Jeopardy, and The Anchorage Press, among others. He is an instructor
and MFA student at the University of Montana (USA).
We dwell in the lonesome
loam of the world's past lives,
layered and layering.
Leaf-fall unbecomes among grass
and flowers, uneaten
salmonberry and yellowing swordfern.
We are soil nudged
sideways by a probing
taproot, our fists clutching
minerals and skin,
wing bits and teeth.
When our lost and unnoticed
into the bloodstream
that soaks us, our cell
water will quicken
like new birds
Oceans inhale and exhale
around islands and the hulls of boats
while we cut back our cuticles
and haul trash to the road.
Above us, birds know daylight is tidal.
Down here we pace this way
and that through all phases of the moon,
scribbling plans on calendars,
eyeing our watches.
Nature evolves into conscious metaphor -
Think omen: sign: uncanny crow call
outside the tent the second you awake,
ground print reliefed into your back.
Phosphorescence time lapses the stars,
gills suture in the neck of a human fetus,
thumb bones gesture inside the darkness of whale flukes.
Maps are painted in the caves of geese skulls.
An afternoon's clouds mimic
the undersides of jellyfish. Castaways
dwell in every living being - worm, whale,
bacterium, beetle, man.
Coagulation is blood
Within houses piled on hollow foundations
lives transform into themselves. Outside, moss
and lichen begin the long process of reclamation,
aided by rain and sunlight. Hours silt the pores of our skin.
We stay busy becoming fruit, wine, vegetable, dirt,
symbol. Our ears are small beaches lapped by waves.
The backs of our eyelids absorb the stories
that let us believe our worlds.
We leave the unland zone of tides -
interplace highlit by green algae muck, moist
lickprint of ocean -
and align ourselves with the black line horizon,
bow quivering like a compass needle.
We bring our own overlap,
firm as land,
onto this fluid plain unruled
by geology, but not geometry:
waves advance in lines
like text down a blue page.
Each wave is a tide zone of wind
and ocean. Peaks and troughs
mimic the heave
between sky and water,
where the hull bucks left and right, down and up,
kicking and giving. We heel then level,
waves spume over the bow,
black mast points like a finger
toward the rushing clouds.
These bodies go loose
to the give-in that lets in sea.
Tides rise inside,
blood ebbs to skin, lips,
fingertips. Faces coat to brine-rind,
planet instinct coded in salt.
Later, legs will hallucinate
ocean swells like eyelid-insides
remembering a straight stare of sun.
We'll mix a sea water ash tincture,
drink a draught to shove place and moments
under skin. Pull sentences out of straits
where words and winds crash
above shoals and seaweed, barnacled rocks
and waterclocks gone dry.
We built a cabin in the outback of the mind,
split birch and aspen, saved rain,
burned oil lamps and decorated with the mossy
bones of old dreams. We expected no visitors,
though we found wolf and muskrat tracks by the river.
Out here we write nothing into the pages ahead.
It is enough to leave them to their thoughts,
their bed sheet cleanliness. The words
we have for each other are recovered from the past,
unearthed like the relics of an old mine.
There is grit in my mouth, still,
salt from you or the water,
a film of sun in my eyes
which regard our histories,
held together with an old rope.
The words we have for each other
are not the written kind,
are not the spoken kind.
Just stones arranged on a beach,
offered to the waves that claim them.
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