Project Description

Thunder Crumpled the Horizon

after Mary Ruefle

It was a good year.
Each night split like a callous
to beckon sin
into the body. Raccoons peered
up from storm drains, eyes rowed
like moons. The meat
was bloody. The tufts of stars
drifted gently in the gloom.
Men gnawed the stems
of roses and women
slipped glass ribs under
pillows. Mountain ridges
furrowed. Each dawn recited
law. The earth’s worry
was conductive, infinite
as the thirst of fish. People asked
truth to remove its shoes
and glasses. A wand passed over
water and declared it dead.
You said you loved me.
Every whale bellowed at once
and the clocks—if only
for a moment—exhaled.

Post Mortem

When they slice open the beached Sperm whale, they find 64 pounds of trash in its digestive system, which doesn’t seem like much for a seven-ton animal. I dip a straw in my coffee to preserve the sheen of my teeth. My cat isn’t programmed to be social, but finds ways to express needs—the certain furniture on which to scratch if he wants me to open the door to shoo him out. He darts out to torment mice and morning birds. The whale was severely underweight for its species. I am not without needs—fragrant shampoos, a mechanical hum to muffle the nights’ sirens and dawns’ honks of lofted waterfowl. After an apocalypse: noise, then quiet. Trash bags and net segments tangled in the whale’s intestines; “a drum among other things.” The dumb beat of my heart, my car inert and scattered with wrappers. I’d famish without plastic-wrapped vegetables; landfills grow grandiose on the sheaths of all I’ve eaten. A drum, a rupture—straw popped into a juice carton—the silk-like membrane separating abdominal wall and organs split by sharp plastics the whale couldn’t pass. Symptoms of which include bloat and nausea. My courage strains to breach convenience, bagged fruit rots in my office locker. The silk-like membrane separating all this hum from noise, then quiet. Symptoms of which include thick urine and thirst. Plastics could not dislodge—I know this of my own synthetic toxins, compulsive thoughts, small rots baggy-trapped, wind-snapping flags. Symptoms of which include constipation and vomiting. I’m not more complex than what I’d sacrifice—bagged garbage, casual discards; Sperm whales click in complex codas, clans have dialects. The internet gives us the sea’s receipts—line-tangled rays approaching divers, tern bodies rotted around bottle-caps, a seahorse clinging to a Q-tip, adrift. I consider myself fluid, twisting cotton in my earholes—adaptable, tearing open packaged nuts with my teeth, sleeping hot, sleeping cold, Schrödinger’s low-hanging fruit, wrapped in plastic. A nuisance species itches in its own atmosphere. Symptoms include tenderness; symptoms include this plundered land of plenty.

They’ll know we were here
by our bright trails of refuse
refusing to rot.

Who Cares About Continuity

The world is a dangerous place.
The same guardrails that proclaim
safety can swallow
whole families in an instant. I ripped
up these handfuls of grass for you. Blue mist
between graves surges silver—dawn asserts
its gone moment. Blown dandelions—fragmented
wishes slip into dirt, lurk lemon in testament
to an ending dark. But how far the bloom
resurgence feels amid glitter, gasoline,
sirens winding into lungs, hood crunch,
fumbled spine—who years
later would have laughed against a
who years later would have
traveled alone electric to
who years later would have
danced among, laughed electric to
who years later would have
watched water boil while
time writhed in all its scope and detail.
I’ll never understand it.

Who Cares About Wellness

The world is a dangerous place.
An errant cell, in time, can fell
even a lumbering soul. The hold of a body
by its constituents—keratin, calcium,
gristle, lips. My love hacks
black phlegm into his palm. A long, healthy life
and everyone dying. And still, blooms
persist. They loudly continue, as limbs drip
headstones. As if we were more than kindling.
As if the rich were pinned in the same glass
encasement, as if. As if our bodies weren’t
re-gifted. Our droll shoulders
draped in children’s labor—let us slip
into a more comfortable idea:
oblivion, every organ a clitoris,
the void unflinching as it inches
up our thighs. So it has come
to this—lists of edible rhizomes
and the brevity of his eyes, while embalmed
bodies wizen and time writhes in its
scope and detail. I’ll never understand it.

Jessica Morey-Collins

Jessica Morey-Collins is a poet and land use planner. She received her MFA from the University of New Orleans, and her MCRP from the University of Oregon. Her poems can be found in Pleiades, Prairie Schooner, Sycamore Review, and elsewhere. She tweets @cautiousmonster