Taking oneself to be less and less important
by engaging oneself all the more, like a toddler
tantruming on the floor. The day forgave
the burden of self-care, undoubtedly
the most difficult to bear. I imagine
myself a whale whose brain only half sleeps
so that she might continue to breathe. I’m not one
to be in the night easily nor to give ear
to the silent e in bee. I’m not one even.
I’m plenty and too many, the infection
echoing be. Its humming relieves my sleep.
Today, when it starts to snow, I write a poem
and I stop when it stops. It is very off
and on. The gleaming street too warm to hold it
and wet, like me.
Then no word, no thing
but blazing until September when the children
spot the forgotten zucchini and haul it
into the house. It’s the size of May, June, July
and August combined. It’s the size of my
desire, bitter useless now, we set it
on the lawn where it rots. But still hot, it holds
off the frost, like me, coming coming gone.
There may not be a bottom to this
curiosity. There may not be ambergris
in the whale’s tummy. We see not day
uttering speech or night revealing anything
but worry. His handiwork looks anxiety
in the face. It has more than a thousand eyes
that dart about. It has two mouths that barely
breathe. It has a hundred hearts each of which beats
sporadically. I look over its shoulder and instantly,
I see what was unforeseen between God and me.
The seam of oblivion smells so sweet.
Preternatural tree because look
at its leaves. Have you ever seen veins pulsing
like this? The wind may be the leaves’ enemy
but day and night meet early, are meeting now
actually, both equally dignitaries
of this earth. The little brown bat who slept
for nineteen hours with half his thoughts on-
going is up. He likes the dusk. Who doesn’t?
No cell is still at this hour so we traffic it,
the movement. We do not light a lamp, come
what may, its spring arms flayed, as if in embrace.
One knows the dawn by the line drawn.
The burning ship on the horizon—the image
of terror and no way to get out there.
Tender holds both, not only an exchange
but a pain and the new love affair
beginning at birth but interrupted
by the amber alert. I search my body for my
children and they emerge. Today is full
of so many things tomorrow won’t be. The sea
smoky, the Muderkill River contaminated,
and laundry. It comes to nothing. A relief.
SASHA STEENSEN is the author of four books of poetry, most recently House of Deer (Fence Books), and Gatherest, forthcoming from Ahsahta Press. She has published several essays including Openings: Into Our Vertical Cosmos at Essay Press. She is a poetry editor for Colorado Review and she teaches at Colorado State University. She lives in Fort Collins, Colorado, where she tends chickens, goats, a barn cat, a bearded dragon, a standard poodle and two children.