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Poetry

National Geographic Explorer

You swing through the broad high-branching trees
and what hangs from your breast, your stolen charge,
flounces like a rag doll clung to by a child
whose parents disappeared behind a train’s

ashen door. You hover above, primate Eve,
as if what you hold could forever be held
past passing eons and zones occluded
by the pixilated boughs, the primeval

receding in an advent of savannah
to the long outering journey away
from your defiant primal stare, awol
as you are from your tribe, a savant

among your kind who’s sensed the economy
of desire, how it burgeons then withdraws—
zero bubbled to zero in the hoard.
You circuit the canopy in arabesques

clasping the dead thing to yourself, the rent
sock of your need that made the true mother
cry out, and made the others clamoring there
claw closer in common esurience.

What stuns us is not your anxious grasp,
the days of your body’s failure to nurse
so the earnest TV voice encourages,
but your pause in a kind of grim stillness

there on the limb limned by the camera’s
omniscient eye, playing at the source,
the limp body fed from your barrenness.
Still, an image like some immaculate mirage

floats to mind with its flawless human face,
a radiant All-Mother gazing at us,
past us, toward some distant Ignis
that gathers everything into its brilliance—

we your wilier cousins, you, the living stones.
And the child on her lap also gazing out
who will die in an ecstasy of tortured
flesh, a plump icon already cognizant

of this cosmos born in waste and burials.
And you looking back, one of the going facts
beheld in your beholding as though transfixed
by the low verdant tremor of the bells.


The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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