Online Exclusive

A Sickening, Bucolia

I left him in the wilderness, the scrag that’s left of wilderness—plastic bag choking the gatepost, Styrofoam snow in the farmyard. The wilderness drips down my legs. Mercury, moonlight, multinutrient fertilizer. What we pour on the land in nostalgia. Make her empty enough to fill again. The wilderness wants me, he says. I choke on consent, my mouthful of hay, a fire tongue.

When a man walks into nature / the terror of sex / comes / a cruel joy / he sees the abyss / the vampire thrill / of no reflection.

When was a wilderness ever empty enough for this noble lover.

“That day we first / Beheld the summit of Mount Blanc, and grieved / To have a soulless image on the eye / Which had usurped upon a living thought / That never more could be” William Wordsworth, The Prelude

A man walks into nature to write himself on it.


My broad green withers, my clefting abyss, my golden fruit, the swelling waves of my ocean, my wide open, my delicate blooms curling to the fingertip of a man almost sentient, my dense velvet forest, my dewy cheeks in spring, my girlish seasons, my tempestuous storms, my shrill cruelty, my hurricane tantrums, my tame manicured lawns, my product yield, my plough dent, my seed taking, my wide open.


I am not the herdsman, no one follows me into the field. Bucolic, from Latin from Greek boukolikos, from boukolos “herdsman,” from bous “ox.” A land domestic. Tame to timid, trained to heel.

I leave him in the leftover landscape because no one follows me.


The city is covered by pollen and thus there is a sickness.

The sheeplines knit the hill with domestic rills and thus there is a sickness.

The app you use for more convenient sex is called Feeld and you think of the field and thus there is a sickness.

The common lands are fenced in and sold to developers for eco-tourism and thus there is a sickness.

Algae is an extra dollar per smoothie and thus there is a sickness.


Colic, a sickening. Once, I stayed up all through the night to walk the horse with colic. A horse was the first truly dead body I witnessed. An equestrian memoir. A memoir of bodies. A memoir of the opened ground. I expected more from the horse’s grave than a common buddleia bush, common bloom.


A man walks into nature. He declares his domain. He declares: woman.


My swamp / untrustworthy, amphibian border / Between surefoot the man reaches his soft long fingers / almond nails / to caress the reeds thrusting up / keeps fingering upward / upward / he conjures a skyline to dwarf me / There, he thinks, dressed appropriately


A man walks into nature and I am put upon. Pathetic (of emotion), fallacy (deception, false statement). The darkening sky is pulling itself from his chest. He sucks an east wind in his heavy sigh, and knows this is art.


Nature is a mother and thus there is a sickness.

Beehives collapse, the queens are dying, and thus there is a sickness.

The moon is explored but not yet ravaged and thus there is a sickness.

These flower crowns are organic with next day shipping available and thus there is a sickness.

The interstate ramp is burning and thus there is a sickness.


I cleave my blades to him, sisters; I cleave my lumber—rings on rings dripping, time, what time can be fractured by a lonely genius. Narrative unspools, the vines repossess as his hair. I give him a mirror, myself. Time, what have I done but wait for him. He waits at the cliff, echoes and shivers. Brushes me from his boots and spits.


What is a womb but land tilled, what is a land but dirt to be trodden, dirt to be built into an afterlife. A man walks into nature and it’s not a joke.


Red sky, red sky, do you not undo me? Illuminate a noble profile, strong chin, elegant arch of the forehead. Forget what chemicals have contoured me. Forget to focus, fear a letting go of the solitary. My man, no one forgets you. Red sky at night, are you now my shepherd? Do I follow correctly—I came to you, red.


A man divides the waters. A man divides the land—heavy at first, my weight spliced. Open for business. Each portion he shaves carefully, polishes, and inserts a mirror, miniature if needed. Come as my country, he whispers, come as my cunt.


When he fucks me I say call me goddess and thus there is a sickness.

There is red sky in the morning and thus there is a sickness.

The knotweed breeds knotweed breeding knotweed and thus there is a sickness.

Every city is the same city in every movie and thus there is a sickness.

Millennials stroke fat succulents in window boxes and thus there is a sickness.


I planted a garden / I didn’t bleed / She wouldn’t speak to me / I planted a garden / Obedient growth / obsequious to the boundary / I planted a garden / At night / the foliage finds me


I left him in the wilderness, the scrag of my period panties, the landfill he fills with the image of himself. I left him to drown. His voice continued to cut me, carrying from the highest point, O and O and O to echo back to his finely crafted lobes, what wind but his encompassing. His prospect view waits for no harmony. No heart to hear from, though I think I speak. I left him in the wilderness, thinking he would die.

And is he a prospector, yet?

The point of prospect is phallic: what must be climbed to get this view? Claim your eye as the ungolden idol, I doll myself up for you, sure: lush hedges, a little give in the turf.


The spring has come and the summer has come and I have yielded. A sickness in giving. He does not drown. He spreads himself against my high land’s breach—never low enough for my cave sink hollow. Come, come, get it over with. But I am not the herdsman. No one follows me into the field.


A man walks into nature and paints its edge. Writes one border, then another, then another. Lined to a cage: My man, my mountain tamed.


Elemental, that is, into atom, that is the smaller parts, the basic stuff he walks upon. So basic as flowers in Spring. So basic as reaching quietly to a light that will see me. So basic as not wanting a throat crushed underfoot. So basic as the river as the self as a constant ghost almost making speech. So basic as the gunk under his toenails. So basic as millennial pink. So basic as the pink rutting. So basic as disease. So basic as the root, deeper and more basic. So basic as dirt.


There is powdered clay dragged from a hole and packaged to shrink pores and thus there is a sickness.

The hedgerows are collapsing and thus there is a sickness.

The last time you saw lavender was as nail polish and thus there is a sickness.

Arcadia is a perfume website and thus there is a sickness.

Pubic topiary and thus there is a sickness.


He went to the city but left his brother. He went to the moon but left his brother. He went to Mars, to the god of war, to the red sky made dirt but he left his brother. A forest of men, not wooden but still hewn. Hung with intent—a fabric plunged into the ground. To plant a flag, you must part a woman. A flag is farmed, not grown.

Caroline Crew is the author of Pink Museum (Big Lucks), as well as several chapbooks. Her poetry and essays appear in The Kenyon Review, DIAGRAM, and Gulf Coast, among others. Currently, she is pursuing a PhD at Georgia State University, after earning an MA at the University of Oxford and an MFA at UMass-Amherst.