Bee in Milk
There was a time when my little niece called all bugs "bees" and all liquids "milk," and I found her hands-and-knees on the sidewalk, diapered butt in the air like a diving duck, pointing to a puddle in which an ant was flailing; face so close to the puddle it was nearly in the puddle. What she wanted, without understanding she could be the agent of it, was for the ant not to drown in the puddle, to which her own tears were contributing. Crying to the world there was a bee in the milk.
Prayer for Bees
Bomb us with sharp collars & dark blood Bomb us with furrowed orange feet Bomb us with sunflower leaf-cutters Bomb us with hairy saddles Bomb us with armed nomads Bomb us with little blue carpenters Bomb us with wood carvings Bomb us with shiny gasters Bomb us with small scissors Bomb us with large meadows Bomb us with confusion Bomb us with forests Bomb us with short hair Bomb us with crotches Bomb us with orchids Bomb us with heaths Bomb us with sand castles Bomb us with bear claws Bomb us with little dark Bomb us with gold tails Bomb us with silver sides Bomb us with large scissors Bomb us with red thighs Bomb us with white shoulders Bomb us with shrill carders & red-shanked carders & moss carders Bomb us with spined blood Bomb us with small gorse Bomb us with boreo-alpine bilberry miners Bomb us with plasterers spackling the cells of their underground nests with plastic secreted in their abdomens, a true polyester Bomb us with vespertines Bomb us with sea asters
“Saddest Slaughterhouse Footage Ever Shows
No Blood or Slaughter”
—an online headline
It isn't long. Three minutes. Two cows the color of dirty snow stand single file in a concrete corridor, too narrow for either to turn around. The camera films from behind, looking down. There’s a dark door ahead like a closed garage door, from which: men yelling, a clattering of metals, animal moans. The cows shuffle nervously. The first cow in line attempts to look back then tries to back up, which retreat the second cow works to oblige in ungainly reverse but with too little space to accommodate. There’s another closed door behind cow two, which I know without seeing because I know where they are. They move back and forth like words in a sentence that can’t be written but desperately keeps rewriting itself. The air explodes with a hydraulic hiss. The steel door rises. A man in clothes the color of dirty snow walks down a ramp, leans over the railing, and into the flesh of the first cow presses an electric prod. The seared cow panics and bolts toward the door. Another jolt, cow one goes in, the door drops shut. Cow two backs up, hooves sliding in shit, then stands very still, ears swiveling like separate radar dishes: there’s the crack of a shot, a great weight collapsing, and a long low wail like a foghorn. We’re at minute 1:24. Cow two backs up as far as he can go, stubs his horns on the side of the corridor, hears another guttering groan and spends the next thirty seconds trying to fold his body in half: rear wedged against one side, face braced against the other, shoulders scraping, haunches scraping, turn, body, turn. But the chute is too narrow. 2:17: cow two is still pinned but he’s managed to screw his head back just enough to stare into the camera for all eternity with eyes like sinking ships. I made myself watch this so I wouldn't forget why I couldn't love you, because you don't deserve to be loved.
for Piggy & for Clifton
the months you were dying I saved all the gold tin lids from your cat food cans I was going to build a giant sun and now have saved one thousand silver aluminum cups from all the tealights lit at your altar I wanted to hammer into a nicho or some kind of shrine finding all other channels permanently lost but none of it sun hammer altar bags of garbage foliage stars death is not the worst form of absence memory is the worst form of absence
[In a Meadow I Am Not]
for my dog, Charlie
In a meadow I am not permitted often to return to I who never don’t look back am packing up all my want you are there forever whose body said isn’t the rain even a path and ran wringing light from silence alike the you the I that hour pasture and now I night I now admit there is none of you left but the grass still blows and I see you there and I see you run your going is folded into the sun
Track of mild hoofprints in snow become suddenly headlong, a blacksmith’s tongs imprinting miles, calls to mind the gone cry of a saw-whet owl, soughing of wind. I do not know which way is the direction and which disintegration. I sense a million bodied words. Inside this hibernaculum the sun is an axe, gladdening.
I It is useful to be in the habit of saying what the sun is like. On a day I was looking at a slide of Allium cells in my microscope, I wrote, “Sun like an onion full of feathers.” On a day I was reading about laboratory experiments on baby birds, I noted, “Sun like a disembodied beak.” Walking in a field disco-balled with dew so bright my vision bounced and broke off, I thought and later wrote, “Sun like a trampoline.” On a sad day after many sad days when the sun should not rise, I typed “blows of sunlight” into an email draft, then deleted that and wrote “Sun like a paywall.” Next day: “Sun like an out-of-office auto reply.” II Sun like a stethoscope. Operculum sun. Overring turning fathers into far sheep. Sequin indeed zeroizing me. Barbiturate bolus. Sensorium gavel. Howl mind. First eye which was breath. Ampere ampoule. Toad tympanum. Original amnion. Omnirhyme. Stabilimentum. Diamond stylus. Looking out to sea or standing at a river, one may see the meteoric shimmer heteroskedastic across the surface of the water called sun glitter which is in fact countless small images of the sun redounding on waves: hot wet eyes of baby cries. Good gestalt. Good good wife. The pins on the cylinder pluck tuned teeth emitting deaf Beethoven’s 9th. Helleboraceous. All boyish laughter. Somatoharmonic. Sole geometer. Causes my life to return to me. Abracadbrantly.
I did not throw your books in the ryveer. I stood at the ryvere and wept and carried them home. I did not throw the books that you wrote in that rivair. I wept at that reveir and carried them home. I did not drop the books bearing your name in the revere I wept at the rivre and carried them home. I did not put the books that you wrote in the revor. I wept at the rever and carried them home.
ASHLEY CAPPS received an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and has published a book of poems, Mistaking the Sea for Green Fields. The recipient of poetry fellowships from the Iowa Arts Council, the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, and the National Endowment for the Arts, she works as a writer, editor and researcher for the the food and climate justice non-profit A Well-Fed World, and the animal rights non-profit Free from Harm. She is at work on a second collection of poems entitled The FOReSt. With the poet Allison Titus, she is co-editing THE NEW SENT(I)ENCE, an animal poetry anthology forthcoming from Trinity University Press in 2024.
Artwork from Creative Commons.
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