Audio: Read by the author.
Ave to the horse’s hoof, that terraced keratin
block bracing like rock against wind. Blessèd be
clapboards we wrap ourselves in, their bevel cut,
dovetail from tenon and notch. It’s hard to watch
everything from the teeth of a rabbit trap. Planets
falling fast into a tar pit thick with quartz, buffalo.
God conceding the first day’s always a sack.
Hallelujah! Finally, some straight talk. Whatever
icon we have boxed up, it’s time. A hung doe bows the
joist below our bed, golf ball crammed in her nape, a
knob tied with twine. What will we do, make
love while some boot searches for traction, then peels
membrane from her body like a trim opera glove?
No one wants to admit the relief of a music reference.
Our part is coming up: we can mouth it or throat.
Praise the chorus, the diaphragm, that thin purple cutlet
quivering with nerves, a curtain flexed, ready to
rouse the wide, pulsing crowd. I want to believe that
somehow the voice it lifts through a ribcage can carry
this nation. That the Jurassic roots of the fig tree might
unfurl like a mother’s arms to hide us—no, that’s not it:
victim or villain or vagabond, no more protection spells.
We’re the seeds our mothers have been planting. If
X marks the spot, let’s dig up the whole alphabet. Me and
you, redeemer, we’ll hum so steady they’ll write us off as
zealots. But I want to praise you, to praise something. I do.
Allison Adair’s poetry collection The Clearing is forthcoming from Milkweed in June 2020. Her recent poems appear in Best American Poetry, Kenyon Review Online, Pleiades, Southern Indiana Review, Zyzzyva, and the Pushcart Prize anthology. She teaches at Boston College.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.