Only Sky Animal
Only Sky Animal, I can no longer
reach your antlers now that the rest-stop
has shut every back door star.
Doubts and Radiators become
monuments. Even my coughing
has weight. I wear your skin
while I’m sleeping, Animal Monument.
I breathe into the canoe of your claw.
Someone stopped sending the fruit
I had ordered, that I arrange each night
on the altar of your collarbone. Someone
said stop using the telescope. To find
you. Sound became the edge of this
skyline where I wait. Where my body
is a building with couples dancing
on every floor. Someone put your hair
in a museum and called it a Collection
of the Most Unreachable. Animal, I can’t
do this alone. Once you held my hand
in your mouth and my mind became that
blankness which was the sky
itself. Send me a message to carry
through this gallery of scars.
Homestead Resort Cameo
I wore my animal head to the party, antlers strung with moss. Because it was the end of a neon era and thirty dogs barked in the empty square. At the party, everyone else was an animal too—fur and tooth and long hairs draping the hummus. We climbed a crystal staircase inside a musical loop. When the last neon ended, I slept beneath a chair still wearing my hooves. My antlers lounged on a chair by the pool. To leave we opened a door inside the plaster scratch-marks. I emerged at Homestead Resort, the exact replica of the Original Homestead. I made a brief appearance wearing my grandmother’s profile. Where are your antlers? my friends asked. I’d shrunk my head to the size of a locket just to fit in the door.
Three Centuries of Failing to Train My Mind
“Listen very carefully,” the Master was saying, “it’s really very simple.” But my yak-fur sleeves itched. And I was distracted by the sound of fat popping in the fire. I couldn’t find my blueberry rake. Or hold onto the barbed wire of light circling inside my chest. Because the story that I told myself spoken through the metal flower of the phonograph was much more fascinating. Because he was standing in the mall parking lot in his wet parka, giving instructions. Dreams marched behind my eyes and I wore a hat made of guilt. My mind was littered with highway signs, a blinking oil lamp, a doll sealed by accident into a wall. My hands smelled like ghosts. And that phrase uttered by that man in the black hat had bewitched me. My thoughts were like a waiting room at the podiatrist. I was thinking about my old corset. I thought: this will take centuries anyway. One day I will get started. I remember him standing on the prairie wearing his wet doublet, giving instructions. It seems like centuries ago.
Interrogation of the Room’s Unseen Presence
In whose name are you working these miracles? How do you account for this? Did the mob give any reason for seizing you? What part of you has died? How have you astonished them? Who else saw your death? What became of the people who were cured? Who took the silver pieces? What vision? What wild honey? How long will your body remain dead? If a man says he repents but does not stop sinning, is that really repentance? Are you saying you are a new creature? What came to pass as you sat and ate meat with them? What does the word Satan mean to you? What is this miracle called? How are you brought back? What do you mean, wolves? Who came upon you? Who shone around you? Suppose a man gains the entire world, how long do you think should he keep it? What proof does history give of the wickedness of the human heart? Who came at last? What did the devils ask? What did you say to them? Had this miracle any effect? If your soul is lost, how long will it be lost? As you gazed, who stood beside you?
Sarah Messer is the author of “Red House” (Viking), “Bandit Letters” (New Issues Poetry and Prose), and “Dress Made of Mice” (forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press). She teaches in the MFA program at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and also runs One Pause Poetry, a reading series in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
“Interrogation of the Room’s Unseen Presence” uses found material from “Union Questions on Select Portions of Scripture from the Old and New Testaments, Vol. 1 Containing the History of the Life of Jesus Christ,” American Sunday School Union, Philadelphia and New York, 1827.