Minnows, Darters, Sturgeon

By Albert Goldbarth

That there’s a fun in funeral
is goofus etymology, but a sensible reminder
of the secret life in everything… how inside dear
is deer and, inside that,
the Sanskrit: “falls to dust and perishes.”
If we could hold a word
against our ear, like a shell,
we’d hear its sea— churning in its belly,
the size of blood in a mosquito.

The way inside us is
the genome’s part of its ongoing
conversation with the universe.
The way the ageless story of the seed is still
inside the Nile reed; and the song
of the reed, inside the sheet of papyrus
— under the tallies of sweet downriver wheat
and chariot wheels and waxy cones of floral perfume:
another language.

The ho’s, the speeders, and the married slappers
never stop, they pile up like autumn leaves,
but under the scurf of the forest preserve
the “cold case” is muttering patiently, and waiting
the creation of technology that will finally point
a revelatory finger. Forgetting is only remembering

thinned with foreign particles.
If the Neolithic village is ever excavated
out of its silencing earth, the wind
will still know the notes. One night
the woman lightly places her fingertips
one the head of the man asleep beside her:
somewhere hundreds of brain-equivalent miles down
inside him is a database
of fossils of earlier women. Later,

his turn: with his ear against her back,
between the shoulders: there, the whole script
of an alternate reality is being recited (someone
plays his part) in a drama
compounded of glial cells and electrical links.
Today I heard the radio interview
of someone who studies the sounds fish make;
her special focus is minnows, darters, sturgeon.
They’re noisy, it turns out, when you have
the proper equipment… thundering booms
and drawn-out kiss-squeak figure prominently
in these fierce displays of territoriality
and sexual welcome underneath
the still and quiet surface.

Con Corona, Mexico. Flor Garduno


Poem for the Breasts

By Sharon Olds

Like other identical twins, they can be
better told apart in adulthood.
One is fast to wrinkle her brow,
her brain, her quick intelligence. The other
dreams inside a constellation,
freckles of Orion. They were born when I was thirteen,
they rose up, half out of my chest,
now they’re forty, wise, generous.
I am inside them — in a way, under them,
or I carry them, I’d been alive so many years without them.
I can’t say I am them, though their feelings are almost
my feelings, as with someone one loves. They seem,
to me, like a gift that I have to give.
That boys were said to worship their category of
being, almost starve for it,
did not escape me, and some young men
loved them the way one would want, oneself, to be loved.
All year they have been calling to my departed husband,
singing to him, like a pair of soaking
sirens on a scaled rock.
They can’t believe he’s left them, it’s not in their
vocabulary, they being made
of promise — they’re like literally kept vows.
Sometimes, now, I hold them a moment,
one in each hand, twin widows,
heavy with grief. They were a gift to me,
and then they were ours, like thirsty nurslings
of excitement and plenty. And now it’s the same
season again, the very week
he moved out. Didn’t he whisper to them,
Wait here for me one year? no.
He said, God be with you, God
be with you, God-bye, for the rest
of this life and for the long nothing. And they do not
know language, they are waiting for him, my
Christ they are dumb, they do not even
know they are mortal — sweet, I guess,
refreshing to live with, beings without
the knowledge of death, creatures of ignorant suffering.

Flor Garduño, Los Limones, Mexico, 1998

Flor Garduño, Los Limones, Mexico, 1998