in a womb.
First movement
in a warm & viscous pool.

You are not
a derelict vessel.

The unborn book of flesh
written but unwritten –
spawning itself
at the reader’s invocation.
An encyclopedia of letters
from the before time
deciphering itself. 

What were you bequeathed?
Potash from the burned wood
of fires in which the bones
of an ibex lie undiminished.

Blue eyes and rangy limbs.
The arc of your muscle.

Or the relish of understanding
an unusual Queen’s
pawn opening. 

A forge in Vermont
where an old man bent iron
against its will.

Or that sugar mill in Brazil
filled with gray masses
of men crushing cane –
heating its juice
to a crystalized sweetness
so many years ago.

Pallbearers downed cachaca
at your ancestor’s death
asking what we haven’t gotten
about God as an egotist,
lapping our prayers like wine.

Flies feeding on our own pestilence.

The woman who sewed so assiduously
at a factory in New York
for the unseen rich.

Or seven lords:
sloth and wrath.

What remains in the ether
after you crown?
Trees of laughter
that send their leaves skyward?

I’ll wrap you in the linen
of your end-dreams.

The seals bark at snowy shores
in your hallucinations
but you must remain lucid.

You flew from a null space
with your odd wings
to learn the ways
of our dimensions.

Milky skies at daybreak
will feather your bed with lullabies.

Incipient flaws of character
line your bed
but the little grey cells give the lie
to those screaming
about the inadequacies of
our organs of perception –
our anemic words.

You will write
anonymous chapters
in the book of us.

When you read your Horace
will you sculpt the text again?

Every reading of the code is the first.
Adenine, cytosine, guanine, thymine.
Or to be painfully obvious:
adjective, clause, gerund, thought.
Each rupture from the old readings
a cataract of new meaning.

And you, the reader.





Unnamed places & hours

Not summer night:

The hours of steppe crickets – 
their stridulations.
Or a night in the season
that horses come to mate.

Not winter:

The months when steppe eagles
make their flames.
And aurochs mill
beside the floe-studded river.

Not spring:

The time of black grouse coo-coos
rat-tat-tatting before dawn.
Or tortoises foraging among
timothy hay and rose petals
near the ford that fills
with snowmelt.

Bountiful days when cave bears
dusted by the stars of sleep
crawl from hollow trees
asking for death.
Or the time when reindeer’s muscle
thinned from prior lack
makes us suck its marrow
for sustenance.

Not autumn:

The days of fat well-fed deer
when the cold edges in
and the beech leaves change.

Not a mountain with a proper name:

but this cliff where an ibex
finds footing in the crags
between shadows of spruce.

We have been here before.
The others have been here before:
the grey face with an oval opening
that says our only names.

Not home:

but room to break bones
for marrow, fatty marrow
and grease. 

A where to chisel spears from yew
beside a snapping hearth
in the same place as the old fires,
or to make cutters that serve us
with their sharp edges.

Others here cook birch bark for tar.
Or knap bones from bison
or wooly rhino. 

Small ones snap the joints
of rabbits apart, butcher blackbirds,
descale perch and chub,
or pull the feathers from crows.

Yes, little ones clap stones
together with a fierceness
and like the taste of honey
from stinger hives.

Others bring fireweed, sorrel,
walnuts, figs, lentil, and olives,
or velvet grasses for us to rest
our heads upon – 
no less important.

Here, where we smoke and dry
our meat before moving again.
A not-so-home for these weeks.



[David Sahner is a physician-scientist and poet whose poetry has appeared in journals on both sides of the Atlantic, including Tears in the Fence, Agenda, The Bitter Oleander, Connecticut Review, Catamaran, The Sandy River Review, Van Gogh's Ear, Blue Unicorn, and elsewhere.  His book-length collection, Hum, was published in 2022, and his work has been anthologized in several multi-author collections, most recently in a release from Anhinga Press.]



Copyright © 2022 by David Sahner, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.