on my birthday
I want a future
out of figs and accidents.
Or a future quieter
than snow. The leopards
stake out the backyard
and will flee at noon.
My terror is not secret,
as the wild must be,
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She’s in the desert
releasing the ashes of her father,
the ashes of her child,
or the ashes of the world. She is not
what she observes. The rare spinystar.
It does not belong to her. Bright needle threading
a cloud through the sky. There’s sun enough,
there’s afterlife. Her own body, a pillar of ash.
I fall to pieces, she says. Faithless
nimbus, faithless thought. In my life,
I have lost two men. One by death,
by error: a waste. He wept
from a northern state,
hunger too cold
for human knowledge.
Once I was a woman with nothing to say.
Never did I say ash to ash.
Never has the desert woken me up.
who releases whom?
Inevitably, all have known
what the desert knows. No one
will count the lupine when I’m gone.
No one looks to the sun
for meaning. For meat
I’ve done so much less.
Cattle in the far basin, sagebrush, sage.
I live in the city where I loved that man.
The ash of him, the self’s argument.
Now and then, I think of his weeping,
how my body betrays me:
I am not done with releasing.