Landscape with Bodies

 
It doesn’t matter the place is littered with them,
Feeding worms, feeding weeds,

Generations deep, bone
Unhinging from bone, flesh falling

Shred by shred away. Don’t bother to think
Who you carry inside you, millennia

Zipping and unzipping, little
Fragments of this and that becoming

A speck of green in your eye, the way
Your neck turns. All those deaths

Planted in your cells, cartoon bombs crazy-
Wired to clocks, and you can’t know which

Will blast off first until
Too late. Better point to a boneyard

Oak digging roots in, flipping
Breezy leaves, insouciant: Now

You see me. We know
Rocks are indifferent, but we carve them

Pithy sayings, If a body need
A body, etc., as if spelling could

Return us, sensible as ever

 

 

 

The Things We Observe in the Universe are not the Important Things

 
Not deaths of stars, spectacular, but darknesses
Thickened between them, any invisible

Pull. Blood surging, thought ticking over
A dog’s brain the moment she decides I am

Dangerous or not, biteful or tender making
A smell or gesture only the dog can read. Her brain

Composes knowledge a fish walked
Out onto shore so long ago neither the dog

Nor I remembers. We could have come out
Different. If I were to count up all we hold

In common, what might I call her? Relative. Fish
And fowl. Tick, tock. I hold my hands palm

Down and the tail begins its wave. Patience. No
More than deepening space between flashes of light,

Reliable or erratic, heart and soul. Gravy. My hands
Accept the lash of tongue. Tasting, to be sure. 

 
Titled with a line from Robert Kirshner, The New York Times

 

 

 

Shell

 
Is it more beautiful now

It is broken? Baroque
Bark frail and wave-

Flung, sharp-struck so exactly

Fractured, softness
Scoured out, each half

Swirling and turning into

Itself, drawing out
Secrets. Mother-of-pearl left

One for each pocket smooth

The palm of each hand. Curved
There. Nestling. Heft

 And glimmer its own shape.

 

 

 

Katharine Coles’ fifth poetry collection, The Earth Is Not Flat (Red Hen 2013), was written under the auspices of the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Artists and Writers Program; ten poems from the book, translated into German by Klaus Martens, appeared in the summer 2014 issue of the journal Matrix. Her sixth collection, Flight, is due out in 2016. She has also published two novels. Recent poems and prose have appeared in Poetry Northwest, Seneca Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, Image, Crazyhorse, Ascent, and Poetry. A professor at the University of Utah, in 2009 and 2010 she served as the inaugural director of the Poetry Foundation’s Harriet Monroe Poetry Institute. She has received grants and awards from the NEA, the NEH, and in 2013 the Guggenheim Foundation.

Mother of pearl seashell photo by Asaf Eliason, courtesy Shutterstock.

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