Poetry | September 01, 2009

Featuring the poems:


Noli Me Tangere

We do not understand why they are dying,

but we know the disease spreads when they touch

so we let the tree frogs sing to us. We answer,

beckoning, faking mating calls to lure them

to our wet hands. We take note of their length

and weight and wounds, and put them in plastic bags.

Separated, their confused fingers press the surface.

This is not the body they longed for, no broad back

and speckled knees, no eggs waiting to release

and swell. But still, they sing like prisoners

with hands full of moonlight, and I want to quiet them,

the way, as a child, I broke a shell to keep it

from crying out for the sea. It is so loud here,

this country where a flower dreams of its color

before it opens, where we coax the sick from the trees.

Each morning I wake to kookaburras and a man stroking

a guitar, singing a song another man wrote about love.

At night, we transect creeks, eels skating our shins,

swollen leeches hooked to our calves as we shine

our flashlights on the banks. Everywhere we look

vines are choking the trees. They cling until they suffocate

the trunk beneath them, the strangler taking the shape

of what it has killed. Maybe some animals want to die

this way, to hold fast and feel something weakening


underneath them. Sometimes we interrupt the small male

in amplexus, gripping his lover’s generous back,

limbs freckled by sores, their pile of eggs, round

and imperfect. When we return to our tent, we take off

our clothes. This is not what we expected. We believed

in gristle, tendon and bone. Pathogen and host.

But we are minor kingdoms of salt and heat.

We trace each other’s scars-proof of our small

green hearts and violent beginnings, engines of cell

and nerve, yielding to this silent, lonely union.



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