Show me the water, I will show you the milk.
We pair up and break down, upending.
The bridge is made of bread, greening & sinking.
The fruit floats, little berries head-bobbing.
My mouth in the water.
My mouth angling for the berry.
Nothing sustains us,
Nothing as a substitute for air, for silence,
Silence the filling in of all that aches,
All that bobs in the water, lobbed to shore.
I am the bread, the milk.
I am the house on the edge, crumbling.
The birds have a habit of (not) helping.
I am the river, the birds.
Souring and blueing, the thick milk curdling.
I can’t feed you the way I can
The feckless fox, the calculating rabbit.
I take your head, which is my own,
In my hands, in my lap: the house stills.
I massage the sand from between your ears,
Wrong as the shallow waters that swallow
The young, the sweet-breathed milk-eaters that saw.
How we abandon ourselves to the wolves.
How we are ourselves the wolves.
I am the match, I am flammable.
God damn it all if I don’t burn it down.
The Fly Implores You To Attend To Your Life
How many days have I gone unseen, your back
To me as I perched the encumbered stacks
Of papers, my slight weight too light to shift
The pile, or hovering, reading over your shoulder.
What lies you tell yourself to live by, that a life
Spent seeking meaning makes up for the life
Less-lived. But I have only the short wisdom of a fly.
I whisper truth into your ear; you bat me away.
What can a fly say anyway, what use, words,
When all you hear is what catches, and what’s heard
Often is not what was said. And so I fear
The only lesson I have left for you is to sear,
Stubborn feet to the light, so that death may feel
As near as your breath, less one turn of the wheel.
Wake, Butterfly, It’s Late
Bat lashes together
So close I can taste your breath
In the pool, fly, arms
Motoring toward the deep end
In a back pocket,
A knife, for safekeeping
Examine all the ways —
On a plate, the filet flayed
In the gravel on the trail,
A ragged monarch, splayed
In the body, in the hollow
Of the clavicle, an unfolding
An organ playing
Its heavy music
Into the one long note
Cati Porter is a poet, editor, essayist, arts administrator, wife, mother, daughter, friend. She is the author of eight books and chapbooks, most recently My Skies of Small Horses and The Body, Like Bread. Her poems have appeared in Verse Daily, Contrary, West Trestle, So to Speak, The Nervous Breakdown, and others, as well as many anthologies. Her personal essays have appeared Salon, The Manifest-Station, and Zocalo Public Square. Established in 2005, she is founder and editor of Poemeleon: A Journal of Poetry. She lives in Riverside, California, with her family where she directs Inlandia Institute, a literary nonprofit.