Balancing on her haunches,
the mouse can accomplish
Certain things with her hands. She can pull the hull
From a barley seed in paperlike
pieces the size of threads.
She can turn and turn a crumb to create smaller motes
The size of her mouth. She can
burrow in sand and grasp
One single crystal grain in both of her hands.
A quarter of a dried pea can fill her
She can hold the earless, eyeless head
Of her furless baby and push it to her teat.
of its mouth must feel like the invisible
Confluence sucking continually deep inside a pink flower.
the mouse is almost compelled
To see everything. Her hand, held up against the night sky,
Can scarcely hide Venus
Or even a corner of the crescent moon.
It can cover only a fraction of the blue moth's wing.
shadow could never mar or blot enough of the evening
Imagine the mouse with her spider-sized hands
Holding to a branch of dead hawthorn in the middle
Of the winter field tonight. Picture the night pressing in
Around those hands, forced, simply by their presence,
To fit its great black bulk
exactly around every hair
And every pin-like nail, fored to outline perfectly
Every needle-thin bone without crushing
one, to carry
Its immensity right up to the precise boundary of flesh
But no farther. Think how the heavy weight
Expanding outward in all directions forever, is forced,
Nevertheless, to mold itself right here and
To every peculiarity of those appendages.
And even the mind, capable of engulfing
The night sky,
capable of enclosing infinity,
Capable of surrounding itself inside any contemplation,
Has been obliged, for this
moment, to accomodate the least
Grasp of that mouse, the dot of her knuckle, the accomplishment
Of her slightest
of the Horned Lizard
I don’t know why the horned lizard wants to live.
so ugly—short prickly horns and scowling
Eyes, lipless smile forced forever by bone,
scaly hollow where its nose should be.
I don’t know what
the horned lizard has to live for,
Skittering over the sun-irritated sand, scraping
dusty brambles. It never sees anything but gravel
And grit, thorns and stickery
insects, the towering
Creosote bush, the ocotillo and its whiplike
the severe edges of the Spanish dagger.
Even shade is either barren rock or barb.
lizard will never know
A lush thing in its life. It will never see the flower
water-filled lobelia bent over a clear
Shallow creek. It will never know moss floating
in the current by the bank or the blue-blown
Fronds of the water clover. It will never
have a smooth
Glistening belly of white like the bullfrog or a dew-heavy
like the mating toad. It will never slip easily
Through mud like the skink
or squat in the dank humus
At the bottom of a decaying forest in daytime.
never be free of dust. The only drink it will ever know
Is in the body of the bug.
horned lizard possesses nothing noble—
Embarrassing tail, warty hide covered with sharp dirty
No touch to its body, even from its own kind,
Could ever be delicate or caressing.
know why the horned lizard wants to live.
Yet threatened, it burrows frantically into the sand
surprisingly determined fury of forehead, limbs
And ribs. Pursued, it even fights for itself,
almost rising up,
Posturing on its bowed legs, propelling blood out of its eyes
straight streams shot directly at the source
Of its possible extinction. It fights for
Almost rising up, as if the performance of that act,
the propulsion of the blood itself,
Were justification enough and the only reason needed.
-from The Tattooed Lady in the Garden
The Voice of
the Precambrian Sea
During the dearth and lack
of those two thousand
Million years of death, one wished primarily
grasp tightly, to compose, to circle,
To link and fasten skillfully, as one
grey bryozoan builds upon another,
To be anything particular, flexing and releasing
spasms, to make boundaries—replicating
Chains, membranes, epitheliums—to latch on with power
mussels now adhere to rocky beaches;
To roll up tightly, fistlike, as a water possum,
and skin, curls against the cold;
To become godlike with transformation.
that time one eventually wished,
With the dull swell and fall of the surf, to rise up
oneself, to move straight into the violet
Billowing of evening as a willed structure of flight
feet, or by six pins to balance
Above the shore on a swollen blue lupine, tender,
sore with sap, to shimmer there,
Specific and alone, two yellow wings
One yearned simultaneously to be invisible,
way the oak toad is invisible among
The ashy debris of the scrub-forest floor;
grandiose as deserts are grandiose
With punctata and peccaries, Joshua tree,
and the mule-ears blossom; to be precise
As the long gleaming hairs of the gourami, swaying
find the moss and roughage
Of the pond bottom with precision; to stitch
(that dream!) slowly and exactly
As a woman at her tapestry with needle and thread
succeeding canopy of the rain forest
And with silver threads creates at last
eyes of the capuchins huddled
Among the black leaves of the upper branches.
to be able to taste the salt
Of pity, to hold by bones the stone of grief,
in by acknowledgment the light
Of spring lilies in a purple vase, five white
flying before a thunderhead, to become
Infinite by reflection, announcing out loud
own language, by one's own voice,
The fabrication of these desires, this day
Splitting and Binding