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on January 1 | in Poetry | by | with No Comments

for Jim Harrison


1. The Naming


We don’t know what they call each other
or even how they communicate. Their tongue
might lie in the cycle-sound crickets call
or the rise and fall white noise of tides.
They may say nothing, only exchange
sad glances at our stumblings. Somewhere
trout bend like commas in the silent
mobility of water, bass nibble around
the drowned trunk of trees. In corridors
shaped from marble, behind doors
so thick they took two men to carry,
hidden ritual goes on, syllables
whispered in dead grammars and incense,
each devotee ushered to the center
of the room where they must say a name
and be given one. One name will be
inscribed in a book sealed to mortals
who believe in nothing but change,
the chaos of shifting verb tenses,
of marriages wrenched asunder,
the screaming chaos of a future
screaming toward us, filling our mouths
with words remembered from the days
we carved them into altars once stained
with the blood of what we sacrificed.


2. The Little Gods of Hunger


Some lives are insatiable,
always ready for the next feeding,
the next obstacle to consume,
small motors leaking oil
as they bark through all
before them. Bare limbs,
mud-crusted stones, the richest beef
all ground up and swallowed.
This is the first and last story
we know. The first hunger is
the one the body works to feed
all its lives. And cactus spines,
grapefruit skins, cold pizza all
are fair game. We should learn
from these little deities how
to consume so thoroughly,
but mortal and forever fussy,
we refuse this bean, that brand
of seasoning, but the softening
tissues of food a step beyond
its prime can still feed us,
no matter how imperfect the food.


3. The Small Gods of Poetry


It’s silence most of the time, back here
by the rainbarrels, where the leaves
of last winter drift pile in drifts around
the rainbarrel, thick enough to keep
the ground damp, where a seed small
and hearty, might take hold
and struggle upward. There are places
stillness beckons language,
though words, like fish, rarely come
when summoned. You can soak back here
in shadows, dream your way
inside the house, the kitchen filling
with dusk light, the porch sprawled
in day’s last full glare. Just before

your eyes close, there will be motion
at the treeline where waking
and dreamlife blend. Then words might
pad forth, trackless, low-shouldered
predatory as wolves. They circle
houses whose windows are lit,
looking for the dark ones where
they might slide through the gates
of sleep and find their own way.


Al Maginnes has published four chapbooks and nine full length collections of poetry, most recently The Beasts That Vanish (Blue Horse Press, 2021). Recent poems appear in Lake Effect, MacGuffin, Inflectionist Review, American Journal of Poetry and many others. I live in Raleigh NC and teach at Louisburg College in Louisburg NC.

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