Animul owned the sun that beat
the back of the gavel-nosed deer.
Around us, sweetbread mountains with
their anatomical stone stone stone.
I was Flame, a fig wasp hunched in her own
sky. Sunrise tasted of red gums and spittle.
I stood at the bars of night, kneed
the floor, thought that would dismantle it.
Some nights I’ll half awake as if still
sleeping in that bloom and wither bed.
You buried something beneath this tree – a jar of muck
that says Wash your hands in me. As if you knew who you
would be again.
Note the pelts upon this path. The wind will strew them.
Find the podunk where you cross, field to field,
beyond the wormers who trespass to the flats, know them
from the cups they’ve lined up on the fender.
Should disorder take the reins of violence,
take off headlong for the crossing. No one goes there.
Outside Animul’s door
I was part black at the
edges, part Don’t say please.
What is grouse if not game?
The question hardened to a crust in the night air.
I would be what I was, part char
and cheatgrass, wanting to be set on fire.
Wanting not to be a pulse
ticking in a wrist.
Brazenness had fathered me
– a rivulet igniting –
it surged. Father, false start
that left us rocking like grass above the earth,
I am belfried with the swell of you.
The black ash of my hands:
Taught to survive and nothing else.
But that’s not true.
Learned to jump the tailgate
when the truck slowed.
Learned to stash Merits
in the eaves.
Learned to know a fire when I saw one.
Michelle Lewis was recently published in Spoon River Poetry Review, Jet, Fuel Review, The Feminist Wire, Requited, The Indiana Review, and The Bennington Review. She has also written essays and reviews for the Gettysburg Review, Poet Lore, and Café Review, and she is the author of a forthcoming chapbook, Who Will Be Frenchy? (Dancing Girl Press, Fall 2016).