Conversations

By Meredith Root-Bernstein, Aarhus University §

Photo by author.
Photo by author.

i.

I carry home the shock of green wheat

it nods as I walk.

 

Yesterday we saw the earth-tongues

with the moss and snowdrops and last year’s old leaves.

We stopped to listen.

 

It nods as I walk,

yes, yes,

all the seeds chanting and chanting.

 

ii.

I always thought you had bad handwriting—

your jots on the last page of the notebook you left,

for example—

but here, your scrawls in yellow

across the damp brown oak leaf

fallen in the grass,

or these lines etched into a stick

where the bark rotted off,

could say anything—

“kisses”, “see you again”,

“shampoo, dishes, scissors,”

 

iii.

Little clouds,

where-to are you creeping in the moss?

The jelly fungus answers

—Like marsupials,

to the pocket at the edge of the world.

 

You remind me of the wax model clouds

of Ugo Rondinone’s Diary,

cradled by the ghosts of his hands.

 

After you become big and variable in the sky,

what will you recall

of this drag and grapple?

—One infinite flickering symphony.

 

iv.

The seal was killed fifty years ago

by an Inuit in his kayak with his rifle.

He will have eaten the seal

and sold its pelt to make a coat.

 

The seal incorporates me,

I animate her.

I walk around and I feel a happiness

like detachment,

far away from human affairs.

But we are deep in other pleasures,

espresso in the sunshine outside a café,

the shape of a leaf in the park,

the embrace, cloak, knife of coldness,

and we glide down the morning streets

on a bicycle, diving.

 

v.

The fog, the ice storm, the tide,

have their own referee,

tumult and pacing.

 

Tingling, hairs rise,

a bumblebee circling, looking over its shoulder at a flower,

bent grass-heads in the swaying meadow,

claw marks in the mud,

bark gnawed off,

a wren hopping and calling.

Like the whiff of piss in the metro,

like the men’s cologne on my dress,

like the scent of lawn-mowing,

and the sky is a strange yellow-green.

 

In the right season,

you show me things borrowed from timeless places,

the offside goals,

the private rooms of the land,

the trees singing to one another,

the little beings in their crannies.

I see them behind me.

 

vi.

It’s been a while

since I’ve interacted

with a caterpillar.

 

Caterpillars are long

and small,

gentle, tubular, bendy,

astute.

They undulate to cast forward

their cog-legs.

They are colorful,

sometimes furry.

I measured the length of the summer to come

by the wooly-bear’s brown fur-band.

 

Caterpillars

traced on my blind palm,

spelling.

They said

they believe they are flying.

 

vii.

Under the magnolia branch I bought from the market,

a higgle-piggle of fuzzy flower cases

like the warm-up room of a quintet.

 

I look up from this box of minerals and my lamp and

watch

one flower case fall.

 

In the morning, the branch is beached

on the floor, open petals bent, the vase tipped over.

I think it leaped for the window.

I worry I’ve been a bad conductor.

 

viii.

On the sidewalk: half a mouse.

The back end, with its tail.

I don’t often see the back end of a mouse,

even dashing through a garden

or into a hole in a wall.

 

The little feet

are kind of nice.

Where did they go before?

Where will they go now?

 

viix.

I was dining with strangers

when a boy stabbed me.

No one cared.

In the hot dry streets, I couldn’t find the hospital.

A tall man told me he had a private clinic,

offered to help me.

I followed him.

He opened the clinic, led me down to the storeroom,

turned on the lights and I saw many shelves

filled with implements and supplies.

He left and his wife joined me.

She opened a large door to a bunker

furnished nicely in yellow colors.

She urged me to go inside.

I knew they were kidnapping me,

making me their slave.

I looked in the bunker, at its bed, carpet, cement walls,

I was afraid and

I thought, how I will suffer most

is that here I will be deprived of all the things—

the leaves and the frogs, the sun-ray and the tiny birds—

the pinecones and the frost—

all the things in the world that talk to me about you.

I tried not to go in, I tried

to wedge my arms in the door, I tried

but there was nothing to do,

nothing to do

 


Meredith Root-Bernstein is an interdisciplinary conservation scientist with an interest in socio-ecological or biocultural research.  She is currently a postdoc in the Aarhus University Research on the Anthropocene group.  She has published poetry in magazines including The New Yorker and self-published a collection, “Hock”.

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