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.

I Wake up to the Breathing of Bears

and one in particular,
her nose against my cheek,
as wet and deeply brown as earth,
and too far down for me to see.
She introduces me
to the warmth and nacre of her mouth,
to salmonberries and bugs,
the fallen flesh of the forest,
nurse logs in the undergrowth,
to the yellow avalanche lily.

I wake to the breathing of a bear,
kind and close,
snuffling and dripping
from the tender tunnels of her own body.
She measures me between pads as big as plates,
her own five-pointed ivory flowers,
the better to picture
my eyes and sockets,
the stripped skin of the skull.

And it is always like that:
the world, when it wakes me,
because it so loves me raw,
unwrapped of lists of things to do,
the coffee cups / the smell of fear
and productivity.

That is
the way it is
when the world wakes me up,
inflated by sleep:
it is the liminal tooth
that pops and punctures me.


It’s too hot to sleep.
I get up
and walk out into the living room
where suddenly I am astonished
by the beauty of everyday things:

how the rubber plant glows in the half-light,
how the dust and fur balled
in the crevice corner of the guest bathroom
is a cobweb of myrrh,

and how, unknown to me,
as though by a vengeful spell,
I have been living with jewels.

With feet bright as hammered gold,
the nails of my toes
thick as button pearls,
the skin on the back of my hand like vellum
where someone has written
praises to God in lampblack,
in broad calligraphic strokes.

Where eyelashes are gold wire
and the trees listen for my footfall.
They have gathered at the door.
The moon picks out
the furrows of their flesh.

We sit for a while, breathing together,
in a kind of majesty
until, with the new sun
again the dread of work,
irritation of things undone,
weight of unanswered mail,
the cold toast and the missed alarm,
I come to my senses.