♥ Exquisite Corpse

Among Clouds of Dust, Only Mountains—a Garden

You kneel in the damp soil of the kumara patch;
catch a red breeze in your mouth.
It races through your system & exits

out the pores on the bottom of your feet.
You see a statue of a human with a jellyfish for a head,
a maze made of invisible blades, a forest of tiny kauri trees,

a wrought iron chair the size of a hidden compartment.
You keep digging past the deepest roots;
find yourself sitting at the bottom of the hole,

looking up at a green section of sky.
I watch you through a window of dark glass
with thirty-seven other tabs open,

waiting for the guests to leave my house.
The walls of the hole are too sheer to climb.
You can see the skin pulsing behind them.

You must choose a direction to dig in.
To the North is a new city made of unlikely materials;
damaged cutlery piled high to protect from seagulls.

It looks like a code, but really it’s an instruction,
from people we trust because they were seventeen
when we were fifteen. I spent the whole afternoon baking,

or rather preparing layer after layer
for Tessera to bake, because that is
a thing we do together right now: baking.

(We are, also, cooking, all day inside.
The other campers don’t know.) You
leave the pressed dough

to chill for an hour, otherwise
it sags into sugary glop, & there’s no
fridge space, so on a cold day you can just leave

it (making sure it won’t slide down) on a tray
on our brick kitchen’s slate roof, or so say
the pinned-up, oil-stained scribbled-on-parchment

instructions from campers who seem to have done it
before, maybe last year (where “it,” of course, means baking).
The same instructions say if you go without

defenses of any kind, it (where “it,”
of course, means “pounded, flattened,
rose-pink, sugar-encrusted dough”) could be food

for gulls. But not (the note says) if you keep it
surrounded by knives. Protect
what you have worked to prepare

so that you can share
it later. Is that the plan
we made for the rest of our lives?

well, rest of planetary or how plants
it’s not like we likely or entomb
anyone who can’t still might

for one thing we’re as waning as
the bees plus your slow-motion rollerblade
evils we surely & even might

when we don’t have any other
what’s the way we steal some
think every tree a cactus or don’t

the orbit next already wetter
I put myself where there’s a lid
how you never exceedingly, let alone fit

there’s not fads or many left
organic timing to peek my head about
what’s rarely is still & happening

take this yard turned anywhere
nature’s not hardly or feigning gush
whatever expires isn’t abundantly or free

or even ours, but beachglass we keep
in pockets, the little bottles of shampoo
we take from each hotel & keep

under sinks in old plastic bags
that once said welcome or thank you
but the ink has worn so maybe they read

el om or nk y in acronymical mystery,
& one day that piece of beachglass
falls out when we grab a phone

or a pen & lodges between a table
& a wall, where no one ever cleans
& someone named Anne

or Cassandra or Jada or Makayla finds it
there years later & takes
it home & puts it in a box

or a jar, & when we are buried, we are
buried not beneath dirt but beneath
tiny bottles of soaps & lotions that

they decorated their home with
everything they had bought on their many holidays.
Tikis. Lei. Carved dragons.

Bottles filled with shells
Cheese on toast with pickles, dill, Italian parsley & pine nuts.
They always have desert.

Heathcliff it’s me Cathy, I’ve come home
Two lazy boys.
Grandson & grandfather both entitled both of them hate

their mother. Resting on her breasts.
Drinking beers sleeping on a leather couch. Deep Summer.
The cricket is on.

Skin stuck to leather. Sticky. Light fan.
A house that smells of mildew
Eating honey from the jar.

I mostly feel bitter when I bite into lemon & think about
your mouth. Your lips are plump.
There’s nothing worse than a pakeha with thin lips.

Thin like their ties to the whenua.
He jokes about having two wives around his ex wife, current
wife & daughter.

Doesn’t he realise what the collection of these bottles,
postcards, statues of Paris & Pisa & lotions means? The
hundreds of shells & soap sachets is her clinging to their

memories before they started to age &
walking became difficult as her ankles swelled
talking became difficult as her angles shelled

tasking became difficult as her angler spelled
tasting became difficult as her antler spilled
lasting became difficult as her anther stilled

lusting became difficult as her aether stifled
rusting became difficult as her tether stiffed
resting became difficult as her t’other spiffed

nesting became difficult as her mother sniffed
jesting became difficult as her bother sniffed
justing became difficult as her bather spiffed

dusting became difficult as her basher stiffed
ducting became difficult as her dasher stifled
ducking became difficult as her washer stilled

fucking became difficult as her waster spilled
sucking became difficult as her wastes spelled
sulking became difficult as her tastes shelled

silking became difficult as her testes swelled
so she tidied her nest. Tucked in her roving
spinnerets, lolled prone in the burrow to shudder. Her skin

tautened with molt until she shimmied
into something celestial. The ultimate instar
for the arachnid Orlando, unskinned & then tenderfoot,

tapping the outgrown curves. Velvet robot’s baby steps,
powered by blood hydraulics.
Her hemolymph fluoresced mildly under ultraviolet light.

Investigation by pedipalp of her vacated exuvium divulged
no new information; it still sported the usual bristle & filament.
Yet it seemed she had never lived there. Tarantula sharpened

her hardening fangs on her ghost husk then knit the hollow
twin into her tunnel walls. Disregarded the grasping disturbance
as she worked—she was accustomed to frequent handling.

Her keeper experienced no trouble coaxing her into the matchbox
he then taped closed. She had to be shipped in a confined container
lest she ricochet around in transit, & be killed.