My Body Tells Me What To Do
There is still a meaty part of me
to rest in dirt and grow soft as a mashed root.
Yet more and more,
I read of ash. How the future is made
of cinders. I am currently doing what I can
to resist pointing out
that all this earning and yearning moves
inexorably toward burning and the urn, but that weird ear-song
clearly held too much music
for me not to say it here. Or to want to hear you
murmur it too. In the incremental stew
of the souterrain, we settle
into ourselves so profoundly we disappear.
then root then pollen and wing then
aloft into nothingness. Every burial becomes
a sky burial, if you wait.
We surface. Even the low and tender
grass kisses air.
Of all the people born on earth,
only a thin fraction are alive now. So today and everyday
is international ghost day.
When the dirt whispers,
it is simply your mother
calling in the grey light of dawn, tugging you out
from the soft but insistent hands
of a dream that holds you
in the way light is held
by the icicle.
One day the hipster’s beard awoke before he did.
It wandered to the café, intent on a macchiato
and was chagrined to be mistaken for a possum.
The patrons smiled to watch it nibble the foam
edging the beverage, which was all it had ever done.
This is not what I envisioned, murmured the beard,
This is not how I want to conduct my life at all.
Its melancholy hunger soon attracted a girlfriend
who was quick to point out possums are the only
marsupial native to America and bearded women
are a time-honored tradition in certain circus circles.
When the hipster arrived a bit later, the two of them
shut him out completely. The hipster’s naked face
seemed care-worn and bland as faded porcelain.
At this point, the beard became haughty and dismissive:
Why don’t you just get a job in design and buy a Jetta,
it taunted. And we could suddenly see how young
the hipster was, how his chin trembled and crumpled,
how much he had needed this beard and his utilitarian
fixed-gear bicycle and his clothes that made him look
like a nineteenth-century farm laborer on holiday.
When the woman began to kiss and caress the beard,
it could only be called unseemly. How can that thing
even speak, shouted a child, when it has no lips!
This is when we understood we had somehow slipped
into an urban fable, and all we could do was gasp
at the truth, our mouths opening and closing, like
fish venting their gills as they flex on the sand.
Michael Bazzett’s debut collection, You Must Remember This, received the 2014 Lindquist & Vennum Prize for Poetry from Milkweed Editions, where he has two additional collections forthcoming: The Interrogation, and The Popul Vuh, the first English verse translation of the Mayan creation epic. He is also the author of two chapbooks from OW! Arts, The Imaginary City and The Unspoken Jokebook. His work has appeared in Ploughshares, Massachusetts Review, Pleiades, Guernica, Virginia Quarterly Review, Copper Nickel and Best New Poets. He lives in Minneapolis with his wife and two children