Two poems from our special issue of THERMOS featuring Hunter Deely’s poetry. You can check back every couple days in the coming month for more of his poetry. For an introduction, see here.
Old Heat, San Juan Island
Pull the stone softly, and it opens in your hands,
bonfire-cracked, the men who burned it ghosts.
The madrones are tired on this forgotten coast
of black rocks, their hips sway to the salt-tune
on the beach’s teeth. Already the family knows
something is wrong with the boy, he cries each
time he sees a raven drift a storm front’s curve,
or the dark back of a whale burgeon in fog. He
cuts his nose down the middle with flint to make
himself a rabbit and as the blood runs out the colors
fade. At night the mushrooms here all look like eyes.
Our grandmother dies on a February morning and snow
falls on purple hyacinth in the quiet yard. Go
out and gather mushrooms, children. Taste them
like blood in the space of your gums as ash washes
back into the ocean. Strip red the bark as the cleft
in his nose from the face of the Pacific madrone
and rest it on your eyes like a poultice, to leech out
the blood-boils from the black sun on the water. Put
your fingers in the stone and pull softly. For of all
the time-worn rocks on the beach, this one has a story.
It sat at the center of the fire like a monk. It cries every
time the tide goes down as still ash whorls in water.
Amid ghosts rising from the hearts of orcas, a hundred
moons cycle through the teeth of the blood tree. It was
the fissure and ash held this broken stone together.
Where the water bubbles from the ground,
the headwaters’ tongue runs over limestone
a sound like Spanish missions’ murmurs.
Where I met you at night, in a sliver of forest
leftover from when buffalo used to sleep there,
buried their bones in the banks and dissolved
down into calcium and salt that leeched
into the aquifer and into your beautiful body.
Where pecan trees sip the water in silence,
a path of pebbles runs past your mother’s grave.
A cypress tree planted in her bosom,
the word made incarnate by her body in the earth.
Where the hole in the ground goes on forever
the limestone is split by capillaries filled
by the dark consciousness of mud. Like the hole
at the center of our galaxy, the center of the earth
opens to the air, cut through by mockingbirds,
by the ancient drone of the cicadas, whose shed
exoskeletons fall empty into the blue water.
Where the earth, like a galaxy, turns in on itself,
we draw our water and bury our dead; we stare
into the abyss, toward the magma underneath us,
the buffalo bones, our parent’s bodies and roots.
We see ourselves poised on the thin, transparent blade
of the cicada’s wing, balanced above the river,
knowing that it is from this water we are alive.