Grocery

 
The fresh beef hearts are stacked in a refrigerated end cap.
How separate each one is—pinkish grey—wrapped in plastic.

He’d seen the cattle tearing the wet grass with their mouths, each beast
a lowing, living table as the sky cleared over Mejia’s far pasture.

How separate now the tree from the field, the stone from the earth,
the boy—from his bike—who rode by, stopping for milk, and saw them.

 

 

 

Please

 
To be trying to find your way home
after all these years. I mean after your parents die
until nothing remains between you
and sky. Who would dare unplug all this and watch the colors
drain? So when I arrived and saw
that house from the corner, the black paper unraveling
in wind, layer after layer till its cloth walls
lay in a tangle between the yard and street, and there amidst
those blowing scarves, my father—farther there—was
gathering blowing dresses, trying to fashion something human
from the ruins. Please don’t tell anyone this
till that kind of center resolves
we call a grave.

 

 

 

Coda

 
That we’ve gone as far as we could discover, and here’s
where the last road ends, but another one’s just visible, and here’s
a kid spitting off a waterfall, and there’s another lighting a match
in the desert, then staring toward the sun, and what the children
playing in every subdivision say is just an echo of the green,
while in cities among concrete and machines, still the chlorophyll
shouts of trees, something to believe in, echo of the first
protozoa and the pain we feel that once there was a fruit
torn from each of our bodies, some human plan till we become
foreign to moss growing at the furling lip of a stream where no one
goes to find it, and when our children grow old, they’ll fold
the houses up and stack them on the lawn, the grass I mean that only
grows around large stones, and one day our sweet desires will all
be packed with dirt and we will travel far by keeping still.

 

 

   

Mark IrwinMark Irwin is the author of nine collections of poetry, including A Passion According to Green (New Issues 2017), American Urn: Selected Poems 1987-2014, Tall If (2008), andBright Hunger (2004). His collection of essays, Monster: Distortion, Abstraction, and Originality in Contemporary American Poetry, appeared in 2017. He is a professor in the Creative Writing & Literature Program at the University of Southern California.
 
  
  
  
  
  
  

Header photo by Sander van der Werf, courtesy Shutterstock. Photo of Mark Irwin by Steve Cohen, courtesy USC.

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