Low Animals of Meaning – Michael Borth



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

and winking 

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,

immeasurable white. 


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.




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.




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.