Issue 29: Nathaniel Calhoun

left behind

buried somewhere within us

  a detector of lurking curses breaks—

         forgetting our blessings

  who gave them to us

         and why.

some curses never hit us properly

  launched years ago

         by people who forgot us.

in the dreams of these people

  we do not appear—

         neither as background animals

         nor as slight misgivings.

  forgetting intentionally

         is still forgetting.

it’s not on purpose at first

  that we leave things behind

         but when we notice

  it becomes so

         if we refuse to go back

  having become too severed—

         part now of the universe

in which we are open to loss

   and forcing strangers to take

         from a shifty category

        that isn’t quite gift.





weak knots

a permeated post nation packs old syllables

around new ailments for evocative configuration

in lost battles waged for low stakes.

we are given wigs, cowered or capered for

then begin adjudicating. curiosity stays away

dining on unlabeled savory cakes.

then there are feathers because something

struck a bird or plucked one or it molted.

what if we saw more wavelengths,

smelled more molecules, weathered better,

stretched our palettes, put more things

back together?

what if we tried harder, blooming twice maybe

once before spring has really come and again after?

untrained knots come together additively

uncorrelated with strength, a mirage

of mutually self-canceling reinforcements.






when we are well rested

we object to old animals


through palpable fatigue.

we say this life had sufficient meaning.

it was well enough lived.

retirement is earned,

whether or not the effort

or the outcomes

were remarkable

or novice forgeries.

some trees are planted

over glorious dead—

swaddled into lineage,

instantly significant.

some trees stand amongst us

well past fruitfulness,

trusted to fall apart

without crushing others—

spared the unbewilderable drive

to cut things down.

even perennials fold over

splinter and rot

after years spent plugged in

but not charging.

[Nathaniel Calhoun lives in the Far North of Aotearoa. He works with teams that monitor and restore biodiversity in ecosystems around the world. He has published or upcoming work in New York Quarterly, Guest House, takahē, Azure, DMQ Review, Misfit, Quadrant, Hawaii Pacific Review & Landfall.  He tweets, rarely, @calhounpoems .]

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