Darkness—what we once called solitude—
bends black skin, not the human kind:
elastic bubbling over existential whim.
The darkness yawns: two lovers eating
each other’s tongues; dim waters forbid,
further explanation, exposure to light.
Misgivings breed; the inner-child weeps
for the absolute each time the pitch-black
burps; the unborn multitudes vanish.
Solitude—what we now call isolation—
living things are but innuendos, like notes
a mother scribes but never sends her boy.
Those words—the ones I never read—
illuminate the night that cracks like crystal
as sunbeams refract off rolling surf.
Residing in twilight, whisps of breath
waver like the dreams of cosmonauts:
ripples of sheen, like that ache before
sunrise, shape our perception of fate.
We begin nothing, become something—
an Icarus chasing splintering clouds:
only in finitude does the infinite realize
the possible, that mundane celebration
of incomprehensible design. Who constructs
the thunderstorm? Who interjects skin
between consciousnesses? Who freezes
breath, leaving the living without a whisper?
Day swallows night; vapors condensate
around the throat, strangle us to silence.
Before the retina gathered color
and constellated the world, the mind
oscillated between murmur and scream—
these truths are too delicate to name.
What beasts does fear engender?
What call to arms do the hounds
of anxiety scramble? Whatever
we imagine, the dead deny.
Words. Before things. Mean nothing.
Sounds. Like notes. Spanking babies.
Crying. Babbling like waves. Dusk.
When things become. Words mean.
We mean. Until things cease. Like
thoughts. Bred in fright. Squeal.
What’s best? Dragons that fly?
Or collards and cantaloupes?
When planting seed, think harvest.
When harvesting squash, think seed.
Rejoice. Roots ripple through dirt.
Jungles will soon sprout and soar.
After seeing the stars, style the stars.
Feeling the sun, we stride into shade,
contemplate the gist of crackling fire.
Creation is not linear; wandering deer
through a snow-whipped wood, eye dirt,
nose toward the musk of crinkling leaves.
Death is an interruption, yet death spurs
flight each time it’s sniffed. Thankfully,
night possesses moon, and in that disk,
the white oak’s limbs sketch an alphabet
of winter; stars, a melody of spring.
Such signs keep the owls and crows
from summoning clouds; keep love,
not yet memory, not yet touch, not yet.
What better place to be born
than sea rippling over quartz,
into the hollows of driftwood.
The mollusks wiggle toward
shore, their antennae turning
to the sun like poppy blooms.
Roiling the horizon, that orb,
once commensurate with God,
its orange too pure to be real,
beckons an avalanche of forms
swarming the sand. A seagull
took flight from that invasion,
the first dragonfly escaped
those diving beaks, an eel
became a snake in waiting.
I know only what I taste, bitter
dreams I yank like sin from sleep.
I am animal as sun rises. Howl
as sun sets. Between, I pretend
to be other. Let philosophers
argue possibilities! Let scientists
decode mystifications! Let God
declare winners! Let me, in light,
build this city in my own image:
swim in multitudes around me.
When birds soar at dusk, insects
understand equations. When gophers
mate underground, only males exit.
When snakes speak in apple trees,
vaginas fear gazes. Penises tremble.
Empires, like playthings, erupt.
Let loose among rodents,
the man fashions a club:
instincts pound the dirt.
Let loose in marguerites,
woman dresses her hair:
her nature is sacrosanct.
Such is biology; such died
when redbuds became wise:
Eden envisions disaster.
People—who gives them
dominion? What fool trusts
a mud-scratcher? Emperors
with no clothes and babies
before baptism, gaze transfixed
by the face hovering above.
Michael Oliver considers himself a creativist. His first book of poetry, The Dark Diary: in 27 refracted moments, will be published by Finishing Line Press in 2023. A short animated film, The Ki, will also be released this year. Prior to the pandemic, he created three solo performance pieces: Embodying Poe, The Whitman Project, and Howl: in the time of Trump. Before going solo, he co-founded Sanctuary Theatre with Elizabeth Bruce. Throughout, he created educational experiences for people of all ages. His podcasts, Creativists in Dialogue and Poetic Consciousness, can be found on creativists.substack.com.