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Four Poems
Existential Water
For Rachel

The island appeared in the playa –
            a thick family of vegetation in sand
            as if risen from the undulation of blued snow over
            grasses, purple. Huddling
            through time, as bodies green and dark
            in me knew better, yet compelled me
            to run from the tall thick house
            where I lay resting
            and take refuge from the wind
            where wind blew.

            In a whistle, I heard a thin animal sound         air on water
                        shoving me from solace,
                                    all solace temporary, all shoves     precipitated
                                    by laughter.

Was this the pattern of chasing again? The ancestors driving me, wanting me to know
            all places are home? –
            or was safety truly in question again?

            a hawk flew down or through me to wipe the nearness of the sky
            I wondered if, where you were, the fog made mention of me,
the wind elated itself upon your thinning windows,
            a screen door blew open to announce unsettled daughters,
                          alive with the earth, making their way home.



The coyote paused deer-like on the playa,
then disappeared into the vegetation.

it was not unwanted vegetation, being
what it was.

I was undone, or made of
unknown stuff,
the fenceposts leaning without their agenda,
the animals turning into one another
without notice or permission,
the sky bending what a sky is
when it touches earth.

Some places, the day wants only to melt
you, to sink teeth into unbitten thoughts of horizon. To shadow
invisible trellises
you didn’t know you had
in your body, the old ancestral encampments that had been
voided, now covered
in fruiting vines. You will not work now,
your ambitions are a compost heap.

Some places, the sky has other agendas than looking
like a sky—

like who of you could tell me
what was human, let alone
woman, let alone me.

I suppose the coyote, when it moved behind
the green, went somewhere else
entirely, just as I did
when I left this place before me.


Rare Anchor in A Landscape
after John Cage

Weight lifted from the field,
then dove. Darkened tawny stalks
slept in answer, spots on the horizon
of a sky I thought I remembered,
though night was new. Small
mechanizations of flight
perceived my road. Mice, unseen,
lived there, in habitats
I could not find
a home. Sun in pools and divots
of black

skyscrapers. A train of capture or of carry.
When interruption took me
from the fluid image,
I remembered Cage loving sound
indiscriminately—no noise
was noise,

Incident met incident
at intersections of color
and time, expansions or deletions.
In every mundane glare, I found divinity
or war. As I looked up
into the rotation,
a plane thought of me, too; a resident
of shadow. I too
wanted to cast shadow. I, skyscrapering
bright sorry attempts at thought,
none of which
I knew, none of which
were really mine, born as they were
of light or blue ringlets of noise
where I was, was I
I was, was I
where I was
was I, I thought
you knew.


Extinction Prophecy

we wore our shadows.
the water milking herself beyond
distances we wanted to know.
we walked, but place had a way
of extending herself.

i drooped in the evening
with no one outside of me. there were others,
but the compartments of our living
spaced out by grass
and dust. I rubbed dust all over me
and kissed the bottom of the hours
where she lived, put her in my hat
and pockets for safe keeping.
that is how I came to be known, when I left,
or emerged from here, as
other lands.

I snow on trouble from above. or I weight
without form upon a life born
without matter,

foreignness here
means a whiteness, an unmarked or unmarkable
concern, a picket fence. don’t startle lovers
by building structures in this place.
dust carries too much meaning—
don’t weep on Epoch’s side, or carry spleens
of snaffled tears, other states
of living. extinction was inevitable—

as chosen as life itself, as chosen as
the correct hat, as chosen as breath
between two bodies who act out
to procreate,

as chosen as: I napped instead of walking up the mountain;
as chosen as: I wore the proper
subtlety when arriving on the hillside, finally,
greeting who was there;

as chosen as who was there, as chosen as who I decided to be
in the mirror; as the moment I slammed
the window on the now-dead fly, as chosen
as life itself.

Maura Pellettieri is a poet and prose writer. She received her MFA at Washington University in St. Louis. Her work appears in The Kenyon Review,The Literary Review, Denver Quarterly, and elsewhere. She lives in Oakland, where she teaches ecopoetics and creative writing. She is the founding editor of Crystal and Flame, a journal of art and poetics.