Audra Puchalski lives and dabbles in esoteric fiber arts in Oakland, California. She received an MFA in poetry from the University of Michigan.
Three soursob flowers float their neon-yellow heads
above gangly stems in the garden. In the garden,
in late December, the flowers, killed off
by drought and human hands, are coming back:
nasturtiums with their large leaves held up flat like
platters of sunlight. Flat as the roof of the patio, flat
because it never snows. It never snows here, and somewhere
there is a future world, a grove heavy with fruit, the leaves
flickering in sun and wind. In sun and wind,
plants are rational: they bend, grow, crawl toward that
which feeds them, no matter how distant or scant.
In sun and wind, the sharp-edged shadows wrinkle
into the bed of wild growth framing scattered structures.
There is a future world growing up around this one.
A future world, gawky as the soursob and young, sprouting
from the wreck of this one. There is a future world,
a hermit world, living in a cave inside a hidden mountain,
growing secret patches of mercy, of faith, of silence,
of promise, and that is the world where your shitty
heartless joke is funny. Because in that world, no one died young
or lost their love, and that, that, is very fun and funny.
The dry hills have their colorless grasses,
their empty seedpods, the evergreens still
breathing, still eating, still unfurling
outwards, still shaping the space with intricate
limbs. Gray-green lichen growing on a dead twig.
Skinny intersecting trails cast over their body like a net, a loose
weave, a spacious web. I made those trails by walking them
and my walking called up the medicine
I would need. Question: What have I
become? Answer: My own shadow falling on houses
at the foot of the hill. Answer: My own shadow
falling on the rocks across the unbridgeable
chasm. Answer: The trees losing detail as they approach
the setting sun. This is what I am: a tree scooped
into the wind, forward, rooted, forward, rooted, forward.
A yellow flower with a collar of thorns. I walk these paths
because it’s where my medicine grows; my medicine grows there
because I walk them. In wet times I am brilliantly alive. (A green
glass prism. Deadly nightshade.) In dry times I am brilliantly alive.
Last night around 2am, I was on my way to work when I realized
I don’t have to do this—I’m dreaming and can do whatever I want.
Later, on my way to work, a dead bird on the concrete, a regular
brown bird, its eye open and glossy, its little wire leg stiff
and holding its tail aloft. What was she dreaming about? What moon
did she see in those windows—what light was she chasing?
Sometimes I want to throw my body at the blue stained glass window
of the church I’ve never entered—this seems like a rational way
to meet God. Instead I look at my hands again, with their red-
lacquered fingernails, as I do all day long: look at my hands
and wonder if this is a dream. A book told me to do this so I do.
What would I like to dream about? A romantic evening
in the produce section, twinkle lights shining on very wet bunches
of kale. Light emanating from the spooky lemon tree, purifying
light like stained-glass-window light, the light of God
in the shape of angels. The girls in ballet class learning
their pointe shoes and clacking across the room. Two boys
making out on a bench, getting up to salsa dance, nowhere near
a dance floor, dancing to no music or any music at all.
Lately I keep catching myself
referring to myself
as “we,” as in I am the one
who has needs and I am the one
who meets those needs. Lately
I am mother and mentor to me, and both of me
are hungry. We are two open throats.
We are the robin and the baby robin.
We are the condor and the dead buck
on the side of the road, antlers pointed
up towards the sky like antlers
on a live buck. Pointing
in a gesture that means, you may
think you understand but you don’t
understand, due to vastness. The condor
pulls flesh free of bone with its
sharp beak. The bone
opens its white eye and floods with sun
and everything is getting clean. I’m trying
to be flesh, bone, and beak;
eye, sun, and clean. Filling myself
with light. Bending death back
to life. Twisting rot into growth. Braiding
everything together to keep it
out of the way while I work. Building
a network of desire trails,
wearing them into the hills with walking, linking
hidden vibrations to secret vistas to
sudden odors to soft mosses, making
macramé of the valley, the world, this heart.