for M, living off the grid
I let the dog out and he bolts, quivering
as if to throw the moonlight off his black
coat. I think of you in your house, which is not
what most would call a house: salvaged
windows, evergreen planks. The year
you lived in the District, you promised
your father to always leave a half tank
of gas in the car. He was not paranoid, but the fact
of the matter was that the cities would go first,
dissolving, digesting themselves, and he wanted you
able to reach land without stopping—as if land
could not mean anything but home, as if home is always
safe, a place from which sustenance blooms.
When you acquired your own earth, you swore
it spoke to you—warned you the night the tornado
hawed through high branches to inkblot the moon.
You called your dog in quick, and she came,
as mine does now, the porch light snared in his eyes.
You will know them by their bright tapestry:
pupils’ shining distance gives shape of skull,
movement of eyeshine shows methods
of locomotion—bobbing, weaving, leaping.
Can the land tell its secrets to the body?
This year, hurtling over vast fields to your door,
the interstate lay furred with the carcasses
of coyotes. Armadillos burst like swollen fruit,
and the Rorsarch smear of blood on asphalt
spread wide its ragged wings, its stray-wire heart.
Surely it is not the flesh which warns us
against damage, but is carved by that loss
as a tree must cant to the wind, and, if not felled
dead, concede to bend its form, to alter the shape
and scope of its reach. And yet, you’re out
there, and perhaps your eyes shine in the dark,
recalling the trove of what
is needed: rifle, cedar, seed, spark.