Body Temperature

Every morning, I take my temperature
with a digital thermometer I stick in my ear:
there’s a nasty bug going around,
and I try to stay ahead of these things.
My left ear is warmer.
I favor my cool right ear, a full nine degrees
below what they tell us is normal.

Somewhere between these two extremes,
the outer limits of left and right,
I imagine a sun
like a bright yolk in the vacuum
of my galaxial head,
space and not gray matter,
and a succession of planets.

You live on the most beautiful blue pearl
in a broad, righteous orbit.
You send out signals into the void,
telling us of magical trees,
your love of animals, falling water.
Some of your messages reach the right ear,
the cold one, where a few drifting bodies
collect in the ice belt,
like homeless men around a grate.

They’ve just heard
that they are no longer considered planets,
perhaps no longer even a part
of this distant sun’s system.
They complain.
I hear their voices when I untie myself
into sleep, on my right side.

They listen to news of your impossible oaks,
cascades that make men weep,
the mothering whisper of the wild,
a lullaby they might hear just this once,
this winter-shortened night.

Eight Years On (Guided Meditation)

The white wolf,
the one who comes out
of the woods in the northeast,
pads into the circle
between two ash trees in leaf.

She doesn’t say anything.
I don’t raise my hand.
She stretches at my left hand,
head turned to the side,
head in the grass,
her breath moving the blades of grass.
And like old lovers
we sit that way for a long time.

By my foot, at the base of the tree,
someone has left a compass,
dented on the top,
with a needle that doesn’t spin.
I hear you laugh,
saying, whichever way,
whichever way,
we can never be wrong.

Not now in the shade of the white ash,
the one that cools,
the one for damp-heat, for childbirth,
not now where the wild wood ends,
where small waves rustle like aspen,
where water gently rocks the coracle
you were
too soon
cast in.

I held your head in my lap
one birthday,
in my wickerwork lap,
like a nest of white-gold birds,
like ribbons of smoking resin,
cupped, cradled, out of the wind.

I close the book I was reading.
I close the thin red cover of the book
and bind it with a leather cord.
We sit there for a long time,
not touching,
humming wolf songs,
and you know when I have left
because you have never left.

Words Used by Kat Couch

Memories, a river of bad soup,
a cat-trap by the water.
I dream the moon soft,
your hand on the screen door.

We loved that creek,
dipped for stone apples,
tossed them on the trail,
lay in the milk ribbons of our bones.

Old love, long time gone:
your eyes, blue berries,
your sweet head,
that monster of your beauty.

The kids gone, too,
you to your doctor husband.
I sleep twitching, walk
the whitewater of night.

Remember our kitchen gods?
They smell like onions now,
the stinking rose,
mute carnival pictures.

Lately I am a bear.
Can’t shoulder shit.
Too light for hibernation,
I stare down a bush, blind.

The Family Dog

In my father’s dream
Toto the family dog
bounds up the townhouse steps two at a time.
They’d given up the dog long before.
It was just dad sleeping,
when the drink would let him sleep.

He wrote bright, fierce dreams
that Saturday, his liver gone,
the mantel clock he loved ticking it out,
the handwriting in his journal
spidery and soft.

It’s easy to see that last good wish,
the dog back full of life,
a tonic for his own small stepping,
journal in hand,
each entry ending “cognac?”.