Low Animals of Meaning – Michael Borth
April 29, 2020
THE STRANGERS OF THE LAND
We would kill him and leave him for the weathers
but he has the best dreams,
images that direct our wandering
and crystallize our separate nights.
To prove his power
he will say one of our secrets aloud
into the white mist of his breath
but he will never say
whose it is.
He sits outside the light of the fires
and almost everything he dreams comes true
but we keep his neck in a ring of iron
and his body linked to a mule.
He is kept in an old bearhide
and into his wooden bowl
we pour cartilage and yellow broth.
He is a living fit
masturbating and screaming
waving himself in primary frosts
weeping and praying
putting his finger over each star
in the vast nocturnal clear.
We walk in the cinnamon mud and marigold clay,
around the lavender pools and green alpaca mold.
Terraced mountains and the slow spill
of the glacial ice
that blues and cracks.
Frozen ropes and a brown eagle
that we follow following us.
Our horses with creamfur and sudden hail,
On good days we lay ourselves
in the wildflowers of the valley
watching the sky inhale the clouds
watching the branching paths of the rockfaces
the shaking golden tufts
the collected colormoisture
that only twists and vanishes
and there are rockwalls standing in the foothills
like ornamental ash.
He draws in the dirt and we listen as he sleeps,
there he reveals and talks and confides.
Once he said that a healer must wound himself
in order to test his skill.
Sometimes he reads lunulae, and dances a joke.
Our dreams are rigid and calcified,
they are brittle and they break.
They speak in bleeds and rushes and whispers.
Rooms and embarrassments. Childhood bruise.
Their elements warp, they lie, they are only memory.
They are nothing and they are everything,
eating forms to become their own defecation.
They have no purpose, they are sad,
they pitch useless echos and bland repetitions.
We turn on the soil and we wait for what he knows.
He He He,
the low animal of meaning.
He comes upon broken antlers
and he makes a paint of pollen
he knew about the haunted glen
and he healed a lapwing with his tears
he told us about the drought
and he told us about the thieves
he spoke to life the fall of meteorites
and he marked the sick village with his thumb
he knows the stalk of wolves
he knows the sweep of herds
he comes into our minds and begins magical operations
but he tried to rape the young girl
when the girl was still young.
He knew the avalanche, he knows the bad water,
he read the mineral spectrum and he harvested fungi,
he led us through the forever tunnel
and we were born on the other side.
He is intimate with spoor and root
and he deceived the hungry bandits.
Knowledge is a pure script in his body
the future a flowerstem in his hand
and in the moonlight he tries to fly
some believe he can
some have even seen him
but if that is so
why does he stay?
In the petaldrifts of a new spring
he predicted our one child,
the round belly, the dome and fruit,
but we do not know the father.
I have asked and he spit at me and laughed,
threw bones and dandelions and light.
I have come to believe it is him.
THE WOODEN BOX
When I touch her in the AC I remember the body I made
long ago, maybe after school, when I was free with records
and bad weed. She says I like. We never got açaí
below the carnaval banners, with the drumming kids.
The cat came into the apartment and trashed my clothes.
Afraid of the sound of motorcycles, because here come the thieves.
I want to stop dreaming about big complicated cities at night.
My friend is waiting for a new lover, but she only wants a foot rub.
Three statues of monks and the bodies writhe about the
abandoned church, the breeze like fallen hair. Several people
saw the same deer, together in the dark
of the meditation, gathered about the monitor
for the results of my latest STD test, we use Google Translate
to translate gonorrhea, and chicken pox. One dispenser
com açúcar, one without, tall tubes for the empties.
I love my grandparents more each day, I miss the blintzes
and the six o’clock special, and I miss The Price Is Right
in the Ragú afternoons—you know I never wanted
to be like this, and I was called a whore in my own dream.
Old World Style, man on gondola.
Using your hands to open a wooden box containing your hand,
and using your hands to discover if it is the left or the right,
and when you realize which one the real hand disappears,
you drop the box, and you keep playing… and playing…
humming old songs.
HOST OF LAPSES
Two stinkbugs on the window pane,
rubble in the lot and they’re finally building out
the CVS plaza. Who are the enemies of wolves?
Big snowflakes, a light dusting, are the Hasidim
the only ones still breeding?
I always thought the world was a prison
and its prison-ness is ever increasing,
each domicile a cell. Will the pandemic
delay the opening of Legoland?
A plus-size model in Stone Ridge.
I am tethered
to a world, a mode, I cannot leave behind.
It is a lost roaming through steeple-shadowed
streets, through a self of boxes, through
meadowlands, through malls, through decrepit
strips, the price tag stapled to the sleeve.
A landscape can become you
and if you will not release yourself into freedom
God will give you no reprieve—
you will find yourself false homed, you will
find yourself pushed back to beginning,
you will grow realfat in wrong comfort.
It is my fault but the apologies
are wafers on the mirror, without breath.
The mandala ground slides away from the center
but you are always in the same outskirt,
you run and don’t move
you jump jacks and don’t move
you pray and don’t move
you down cleanspeed and don’t move.
It is not enough,
the center tower
of blueviolet flames
is not impressed,
you have not made yourself fuel,
you refuse to burn, you only mimic and mime
the dance of phases, days of bracing
against the silent change
you know you hear and ramble over.
Put yourself in the furnace,
stop imposing, stop erecting
yourself in straw in frozen fields,
your incessant naming
has made the need for names dire.
Low Acid, Fresh Scent, Specially Formulated,
brown hedges and blackwindow desire,
but you have imbibed and you maybe believe
that the ley lines lead to Shambhala,
the rotation of coins and the extension of hoses,
rulers and readers cut into metal and metallic fish
find themselves on walls of wood,
resuscitate the palatial corpse of memory,
resurrect your blueprint of casual haunts,
make tall your tired world but do not complain
of its toil, its misery, its perfected schemes,
you keep making it, you keep insisting
on its truth and primacy, so a plague is tossed,
a famine, a war, your wretched posture in a spectrum
of scorched abundance, wind through holes, wind
around windows, a host of lapses.