The frenzied stars were still feeding
On darkness when we prayed
For an appetite, a web spun from skin
To bone, a veil that would cling to us, one
We could never pass completely through.
This was after the world slipped
Into a cocoon and digested itself,
Emerging with wings that felt real
To the touch but were nonetheless
Artificial, an adult novelty, a gag
Gift at which people feign laughter
Before chattering on in disbelief
At the scrumptiousness of preserves.
We bellied to the ground beneath
A cloud-marrowed sky. Gnarled
As a softwood contorting toward light,
We were a mess of needles and seeds.
We longed to devour the quivering
Along the silk between branches, a hunger
About which we could do nothing.
A Harvest of Floods
You’ve never been good at tying knots,
And your grip is barely strong enough
To hold the things that don’t want
To flee from you. You used to stand
In the creek, your arms outstretched, hands
In the water. How you strained to pile water
Into a heap, a harvest of floods, and when
That didn’t work, you lifted your hands
Above the water like wings and tried
To coax the creek to reverse its course
As if it were made of ducklings you could herd.
The current frothing against you, you nearly
Drowned. Still, you believe keeping is the only
Way to avoid wasting, and you want to waste
Nothing, not a deformed dewberry entangled
In briars on the creek bank, not the skin
Of a fish you found dried in the remains
Of a campfire, not the barking of a squirrel
At dusk, a squirrel whose legacy is an acorn
Buried and lost in a forest of pine trees.
I casted a Devil’s Horse
Until it was too dark
To see its ripples,
Hoping for one more
Bass to explode and snatch it
It under. I didn’t realize
The moon was full
Until I saw its light ooze
Down the blade
Of my knife and pool
In the blood on the board
Where I cleaned my catch.
Yellow as a glob of eggs,
The moon fattened the sky
Under which I buried
The parts of the fish
I was unwilling to eat.
It hasn’t been long
Since I was afraid
Of losing sight of a window
Even if I knew no one
Was behind it. Sometimes,
The possibility of being seen
Is as good as being seen.
I used to look at the sky
That way, like someone could be
On the other side of it, preserving me
With an eye. Yesterday, when I looked
At the sky, the moon had just risen,
Not quite full, but bright enough I didn’t turn
On a flashlight after the evening clouds
Blanched and dissipated. Had I
Suddenly needed someone, no one
Would have been there. I couldn’t
Tell if I wasn’t afraid to die
Or if I simply thought I wouldn’t.
A wind fat with the odor of spawning
Bluegill seeped like sap from the night.
To find a new unthought-of nonchalance with the best of Nature!
To have the gag remov’d from one’s mouth!
–from Walt Whitman’s “One Hour to Madness and Joy”
The sun has faded from our bodies
And it is too cold to want anything,
Yet the frost on the grass gives way
To the kitten’s step, and buried
Currents loosen creeks. We cannot
Feel the light in which we walk, yet
It melts the gag that has kept us
From naming the winter garden’s
Green, sprouts thriving in weather
That can burst pipes, bulbs barely
Covered sending up tough shoots
Only a gale could bend, and knotting
The dirt with new bulbs. We stand
There shivering, watching a doe
Graze the row closest to the woods,
Her tail flicking at a creeping in leaves.
Jordan Sanderson earned a Ph.D. from the Center for Writers at the University of Southern Mississippi. His work has appeared in several journals, including Better, Blue Heron Review, and Oklahoma Review,. He has two chapbooks, Abattoir (Slash Pine Press) and The Formulas (ELJ Publications). He lives near the Gulf of Mexico.