~ after Lesley Wheeler Is it one syllable or two? When did I (you) last really speak to you (me)?
Later that morning, after borrowing the neighbor's ladder to pluck an errant plant growing in a corner of the roof's front gutter— I decide to also clear the weeds tangling the mouth of the downspout. My other neighbor across the street uses the word "volunteer" when she's talking about plants that show up in her tidy garden as if from nowhere. A stand of curling fern, for instance— which she didn't put in the soil herself. Or wildflowers she kept because they were pretty, and closer to the sidewalk's edge. I'm tempted to ask if these plants know what they're volunteering for: you know, like many citizens in the community who've signed up to be poll workers, even if most of them are over the age of 60 and understand they're in a group more susceptible to contracting COVID-19. Young people too, properly masked, armed with clipboards and flyers, going door to door, reminding people how important it is to register and vote in the coming elections. And the volunteers stocking community food pantries, the school children fanning out across public parks and beaches to collect trash thoughtlessly tossed by others in the bushes or on the trails— This is where, often, someone finds small animals: turtles, possums, seagulls, herons, ducks, their heads caught in plastic six-pack rings, legs wound in plastic twine. As for migratory birds that have been seen falling out of the skies across the south- western states in the hundreds of thousands, I don't think they freely offered to take part in their own mass extinction. Between raging wildfires and unseasonable cold snaps, how long did they reel through the sky until they couldn't, until they hit the ground, reduced to feathers and bones? When I find under the rosemary a bird's narrow skull of mottled ivory, it's not so much the brittle hollows of its eye sockets or the wanting to know whether it was flycatcher, swallow, or warbler that comes over me but that there's still a softness in the hinge that used to work its bill.
4 there's likely a reason for why you might read ginkgo in place of gelato, anger for ginger, wound for word— the air tips the hourglass to the other side as if everything could begin again: the mouth remembers the child's thumb; the shoulder, her homesick head— what you want to know is which of the vowels you sounded never stopped ringing in her ears even as she fell asleep * prescriptions; Tagalog
3 observe deep silence in the hours after moths congregate someone brings a bowl of water, a candle, an egg the soft scritch of a match signals the beginning of rescue you hear it from afar like a hammer striking an anvil you were on the burning plain or in moss-curtained forests you were at the place where the sun stuck its coin in the poor-box gently you pick up the soft body folded across the path you put its arms into coat sleeves, its feet into your shoes * prescriptions; Tagalog
2 raven-blood, dog-blood, heated just below boiling the formal ceremonies of owls after dark salt pearl, rice pearl; bud from a particular time of year old love, a lozenge dissolving slowly under the tongue smear of red earth and water, controlled uprising of bees prayer summoning what you exiled, naked, to ice or snow lie down and let the hands of the ancestors rove get up as a lioness to shred the sheets you soiled * prescriptions; Tagalog
1 cut out the dead herb growing spirals inside your chest inside the sour plum, find a seed with the initials of god see how the mouth hungers for the unwritten century collect, if you can, the honey left by ants on the road in the morning, run and unfasten the gate to the sea keep the first feather that brushes against your throat with the second, make a tincture of eucalyptus and gin don't join the crows in heated discussion of headstones * prescriptions; Tagalog
4 the hair: its toothed iron sheets, its lacquered walls the elbow: its never-gloved, stair-stepped midtown tunnel the ear: its widespread auricle, its tin cup held out to the ocean the hip: its switchback curves and wings; its carved, vacated cradle the muscle: its wild-haired resident tailor with deteriorating eye the ankle: its heeled oscillations and dreams of immortality the brain: its limbic planets, its wells of desolation and nostalgia the skin: its fires and disasters, its basement telephone exchange * symptoms; Tagalog
3 the thigh: its speckled landscapes and faun-like moods the tongue: its love of idle industry and minor angels the throat: its splintered caves and hidden rivers the cheek: its aches, indecipherable from engagements the forehead: its balconies of constant dreaming the nape: its squeamishness and fear of wooden blocks the arms: their pale whipped froth and custardy insides the groin: its marshy bogs and and mists of gasses * symptoms; Tagalog
2 the nose: its diving headfirst into wind, its lift and flop the chin: its love for hammocks, its pyrrhic aspirations the vein: its unsteady arrows in single lanes the eyebrow: its cliff hangers, its plein air sketching the philtrum: its silence concerning the wisdom of the world the suprasternal notch: its quiet alley, its nest of fallen birds the bladder: its muffled trumpets, its watery bleats the hand: its genius at picking locks, its open softness * symptoms; Tagalog
1 the heart: its palpitations in molasses and vinegar the liver: its hooded falcon and perforated clouds the spleen: its doubled fists and banked fires the spine: its naked chandeliers and broken lamps the mouth: its one red dress and oyster bed the stomach: its allegories of milk and vellum the ear: its copper clocks and restless constellations the eye: its fenced lagoon and roving windlass * symptoms; Tagalog