at night we go down to play at the landfill. between the
mold and the hydrochloric acid. insect legs. we’re always
about to cut ourselves on rusty lids. on the verge of
disease. of knees adorned with pus. rats
come in packs. diving through tires that crumble to sand.
feeding their young on remnants of plastic and gasoline.
they nest along neon canals. magenta and yellow. acid.
steaming sap that trickles from the
when the light is gone someone asks what we’re doing
fear clutches us and punctures our laughter
sometimes we walk to the swamp. slowly. careful
not to let the nettles skim our skin. we bottle
our breathing so the poison doesn’t slip into our blood. so the wasps
can’t smell the sweat. the ground softens and we
take off our shoes and carry them in our hands.
once we moved in mud more steadily. like amphibians.
with gills. clay sounds shifting as we neared the darkest
nervous laughter. the chirring of birds snared in bushes
still heavy from the last flood.
and suddenly the sense that something that someone
is buried in the mud.
the hunters show up on the coldest days of winter. mud
footprints on the stoop. bodies. gray. that hang from rusty
hooks. red rings seeping through the slits in wood onto
the floor. outlines of stars. of sea monsters we dreamed.
that same night.
the women move quickly and silently. the hunters sit next
to the fire and watch with eyes we’ve never seen before.
there is something red in their stares. it leaks out. aching.
the women peel off skins. they drape the animals on hooks
and leave them hanging. eyes black. making tiny shadows
on the floor
the hunters stand and grunt. delighting in
the cold geography of corpses.
they come out. timid. eyes shining. tongues rough and
soft like dirty peaches. we sit and they circle around us
licking our foreheads and our cheeks. inhaling hidden
places and nudging feet that do not move. nothing moves.
our hands stay open and they lick over and over. like
they’re waiting for a miracle.
night falls and the fever climbs from our knees to our
chests. women run and bring red cloths that drip water.
whispering and trading looks. they steady their hands
against our chests our eyes our stomachs. drowning at the
edges of beds.
even the clumsiest children know to scare the parasites
outside there are swallows. they want to come into us. to
nestle inside us. they slip from the sky like snakes and aim
for our chests.
a shadow waits behind the door. sour like the lemons
we eat soaked in honey.
our sheets are stained with sweat.
at night they bring him out to the shed. where they keep
the old tools. where the animals go for water. they
shout at us to wake up. to come and see the prodigy. we
stagger in. like drunks. adjusting to the absence of light
and the sound of the termites that have chewed at the
beams for years.
while we wait the men’s eyes move all together
and grate like knives.
a membrane covers the houses and the wall. we can only
guess at what lies on the other side. we swallow over and
over and huddle together till feet and knees disappear.
we stay very still. breathing softly from under our eyelids.
we don’t move or reach out to try and touch the other side
voices. a rock striking something. maybe boots in the mud
animals we’ve never seen before.
on the edge of the wall there’s broken glass. butts of old
bottles. fragments of china split by the heat. remains of
we go underneath to see the flashes and transparent
colors. the shadows of soldiers and horses pattern our
hands and the floor.
the sharpest shards dig into the animals’ hooves. the shiny
ones perforate our
when the heat comes the poppies invade the sidewalks and
the wall. we fall dizzy toward the soil to uproot
fistfuls of insects. they skate our arms. microscopic lips
that leap from one hand to the next. when they fall they
open shells and breathe translucent wings.
we unfasten the cocoons. even the softest ones.
white and green. we press their hands until the lacework
disappears behind pink.
at night they come back to chase after us. yellow
running like horses.
we let ourselves drop backwards. eyes closed. to feel the
way our insides jump against our ribs. in the cinders
a silverfish flashes like oil. we flail our arms and try to
stand. the smallest ones wait their turn. doubled over to
knead hot soil with hands.
we stagger on numb feet. make swords and walking sticks
from broken limbs
tiny corpses crawl out from the creases in the earth.
if we hear sirens we run to the road. the engines sound like
white stones. falling. later on they open the doors and
bodies jut out between bits of water. there are eyes with
red irises. staring upwards like open mouths. they’re
passed from one hand to the next.
the man in green boots lets loose sheets of laughter. we
think of the shapes. square rhombus ellipse.
not one corresponds to the outlines of our bodies and our
under the sheets we eat white dust. chewing slowly. naked.
with one cold hand on our forehead. behind the wall
of sweat the earth opens up in corridors.
the trees. with their golden eyelids. never came back. to
rock us and to bite our empty heart
between alkaline petals and brittle corollas we chase the
newborn animals. in the nests the blue ones are still. their
closed eyes shedding heat and rustling like thistles. we put
our hand in the hole. there are bits of brick and moss and
sticks arranged at the opening.
if the females come back swollen round
we scale the walls
we beat against the wall. wave rusty noisemakers. we’ve
carved a hole to climb through. to the other side. only the
moles make it over. gnawing at roots.
we open the land like an orange. we chew through insect
wombs and the hardened water between clods of dirt.
when the men come they’ll find holes in the shape of
we smear the body with oil. the wounds blink open and
spill white milk tears. the field’s naked scalp is like mud or
a stone at the deepest part of the pond.
we could heal it if we only had a face or
an acknowledging hand
under the weight of the bodies our faces buckle and grow
someone tries to jump again. hiding his folded hands. his
teeth shiny. wet.
our hands go on making shapes at random. if we think
about jumping or bending our knees a noiseless cry divides
us into two twin breaths
the herd comes out from the shed.
the patter of hooves approaches the spring and each one
waits its turn to dip snout into water.
we comb the land near the wall and everything slows
down. the hooves fall heavy and the wet snouts pivot
toward us. if we move they’ll run. and press together in a
at the end of august the golden leaves undo themselves in
our hands with tiny sighs.
other inexplicable things happen. there are snakes empty in
the ditches. headless.
we grab hold of a willow branch and scrabble in the
porous backyard dirt. the anthills dissolve and ants careen
in every direction. we look at ourselves in the mirror and
our hair is splitting straw. and still our hands speak
we stand with our backs to the circle. under the acacia the
heat of midday comes back strong. drops trickle like little
fingers on the skin behind our knees.
when we hear the shouting we begin to itch.
a cry and someone collapses to the ground. another cry
and we start to move again. another and another falls.
the leaves of the acacia quiver. we look up and see a bird
tied to the highest branch by its legs