Midway on our journey we’d gotten lost like golfballs
in a dark forest. Like tiny brains shanked into the unknown
by a slippery three-wood, we’d forgotten why
we were supposed to keep score. One of us said,
up ahead there’s a new path, let’s give up the old path.
Soon the new path began to look like the old path in reverse,
and we kept feeling that old loss of newness,
digressing enough that we started to repeat our gossip.
Someone said that we were lost on the geological debris
left behind by a glacier 10,000 years ago,
midway on its journey back home. Someone recalled
getting lost once in a photobooth on a beach in New Jersey.
Someone recalled getting lost once in a bumblebee costume.
Someone said that researchers had put some ants
on stilts and cut the legs of other ants in half
to prove that ants find their way home by counting steps.
We’d lost count long ago, but then someone recalled
a small green pond at the start of our journey and said,
we should start thinking like a pond. The pond appeared
and said, this is the end of the path, you should start
thinking like a fire. Already we could see the burning wood,
and the trees all around, the not-burning trees,
watching the fire with awe. Someone said,
if you look far enough into the fire you can see
the embers flashing like a tiny chorus line.
Someone said, if you look far enough into the stars,
you can see a limousine pulling up, ready to drive us
into morning. The pond said, listen to these kick-ass frogs,
they remember what the glacier felt like when
it retreated, like it was letting go of a book
it would never finish. We listened to the frogs,
and for a while, we didn’t say anything stupid.
The Whiteness of My Family
My brother the hazardous waste inspector
sent me a news report about a fire that burned
down a warehouse of white phosphorous
at a US Army arsenal. In the news report
my brother said there’s been an impact to creeks
in the surrounding area, contaminated water
actually made it to the river, and there was a fish kill.
My brother the inspector said his department
will continue to monitor the arsenal’s clean up
of whiteness from the news. The arsenal said
a leaking can started the fire, but the fire
has been extinguished by the fish kill.
Many years ago my brother grew inside
our mother’s uterus. He grew curious
and swam down the river and found the sun
that would first burn his baby ass. He learned
his vowel sounds, he learned how to speak
of wasted rivers and leak a can of painful news.
The more I learned from him, the more we
sounded like each other, the farther we swam,
slurring our consonants, rounding the bend,
coming to the mouth. The same mouth that said
there’s an arsenal in the future, personnel
are cleaning up the slab where the fire
burned down the warehouse of whiteness,
but there’s the possibility of a flare up in the future.
When our family lived in total whiteness
in a house wrapped in aluminum siding,
sometimes a mouth said, not now, it’s time
to wash your hands, we’re about to eat dinner.
Then my brother dumped all the fishfood
in the tank, the fish saw the ceiling of their lives
as too much to eat right now to keep living
or even make it to the river. Our mother said,
it will get dark in the future, and if you look
into the dark far enough, you won’t remember
what the stars look like. Sometimes
when you’re underwater they all
begin to look like one big star.