micro / cosmos

                  Once the whole is divided, the parts need names.
                  There are already enough names.
                                             Lao Tsu

There is no part of the body that does not
know intimately the other parts.
Why do we imagine the scapula does not
feel the pain of the broken heart?

How could the heart not
experience the stunned heat of the forest clearcut?
The ancient stump not
hold the swirling life in the cloud?


Stream knows stone
knows magma knows mold
knows viper knows vulture
knows sky knows you—and you

know the rapture of the spider
hidden under an apple leaf, one slender leg
resting on a single strand of her creation,
the instant she senses the shock of the insect caught.

Listen to Katrina Hays read “micro / cosmos”:




I slept in her room.
She held bottles to my mouth,
rocked me into mystery dreams.
Sister-mother, she remembers my first step, first word, first haircut.
Sister-daughter, I shared her covers, her bath,
and I remember when she left.

Who handed her that first polite paper cup?
Who put it in her hand?
The frat boy smiling Southern charm as he turned from the keg?
A sorority sister offering some rush good cheer?
It doesn’t matter.
She drank.

It is 1968.
Inside Montgomery afternoons with their particular wet heat
I am small bare feet on top of hers as she dances around the kitchen
doing the funky chicken, the mashed potato, the twist—
lord how she laughs, her head thrown back:
Do you love me, oh

do you love me?


The Quarry

Years ago they clawed
a great pit
into the ribs of our mountain.

After the treasure was gone
they abandoned their excavators to rust and wind,
slapped up a fence, and left.

The wound gradually filled with seep.
Filled with rain.
The water is black and deep.

We go there to swim despite
or because of the old broken fence.
Despite or because of warnings
from our mothers.

Because it is cool on hot days.
Because it is delicious
to jump from the ledges,
plunge in.

One summer a boy
tied a stone to his waist with rope.
Stepped off a cliff.
He is still falling.

We could not save him.
We do not fault him.
We just pass through the fence

again and again.
Throw rocks into the water
so he will not be alone.

Photograph: “micro / cosmos” by Steven McBurnett