by Stephanie Sesic

make way

he was pacing the snarled intersection again today
an old sick animal in an open-sided cage
no placard to tell us what was lost or needed
to be saved      just his hand beckoning like a cross
between delirium tremens and a royal wave
reflexive twitch without expectation

even the little zoo downtown was renovated
years ago to treat its creatures better than this now
even the royal family has to contend these days with humanity

why do we expect a more precise decay        than indifference
what will destroy us if not looking at the sad display
then driving away unmoved and marked for culling

Feeding Time

Is there any such thing as a word
with only one meaning?
In college I learned my first definition of imago:
the ideal image of our parents
that haunts us. Only now
do I unwrap its next meaning:
the final and fully developed
adult stage of an insect,
typically winged.

Haunted by wings makes sense I guess,
metaphor as a way to crack our own carapace.
We pin ourselves down with words
then try to squirm out from under them.
I didn’t mean it that way. I didn’t mean you.
Hardly anyone likes being held open on display
though all our dark underbellies could do with stroking.
We try to shed the past like molted shadows,
but something is still alive in there and hungry.

Dead or Ripe – Abscission

I’m convinced that I could
never leave,
though the fey part of me still wants
to set sail on a windborne leaf.

The singular and plural
selves are changeling strange.
Every human child is eventually stolen.

Do not attempt to untangle the true
you from where it has slept embrambled.
Or do.

From barrow to Tír na nÓg,*
all the dark powers of earth are
our invention. The unseen richness
under the hill, fearsome as desire
fulfilled, is how some of us
imagine death,

but no sepulchral treasure
can eke a glint from a closed eye.

Now is the time to seek the uncharted.
Safety will just as surely fell us
as any daring.


*The Land of the Young in Irish mythology, an idyllic Otherworld where time passes more slowly. One of its beautiful inhabitants, Niamh, leads the human poet-warrior Oisín there. After seemingly three years, he returns to discover that 300 years have passed in Ireland, where, as soon as he touches the ground, he immediately ages and dies.