THERMOS 10: Two Poems by Hunter Deely

Here are two more 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.

How to survive in a time of violence

When the child kills his first animal he finds
in himself that inherent concept of God.
The BB moves so slowly he can trace its arc
through air, which is also its trajectory through
his sense of time that never really gets any
longer, as each day added also grows smaller
in relation to the whole. He finds himself enthralled
with the power to take life. And he hates it.
It’s getting dark. And standing in a field at dusk
with a small gun on his shoulder and the smell
of honey purling from the white clumps of
alyssum onto a soft tissue in his nasal cavity
that, without any conscious thought or language
turns one thing into another, he starts to cry
as he finds the still-warm body of the wood thrush
in a pile of oak leaves already being consumed
by ants. And years later, he may remember
the feeling of loss and let it blind him as he stares
into the low sun over the field. Or, he may
forget. He may have to forget. We all do.

Archaeology of Distances

On the low side of the dam in the disused
basin you found a tree whose every
leaf was a live redbird, as you stepped over
buffalo bones and hobo camps into the
uncharted cartography of birds, for whom
this tree of red feathers was the compass

In this city of highways the roads have defined
the cartography of our eyes and under
flickering streetlamps become the vectors of
our mind’s disease, our history thrown
into relief against a series of bright dots with
long dark space in between, as if from the windows
of a plane. We step from asphalt down into the basin
where gray leaves collect with floodwater, the
whirlpool of forgotten words, the names of animals,

It was the cardinal sin, you said,
to pass over a place and not dig and reveal
the framework formed in opposition:
line/space, color/creature, heart/fossil.
You always were an archaeologist at heart
though you sought not what was buried
but how it blossomed in our present age

One night you looked at the sky
from a rooftop in Manhattan and saw
with the precision of a raindrop every star
in full flare, and called, your voice rerouted
through a satellite, to tell me your vision
and the path to take into the basin, and up
to the rooftop to see the cardinals’ map

Between a dividing wall and the routes of
migratory birds, the dust in the basin and the
secret life of dying stars in the city you have
shown me how to map my own course as one
layer among many unseen layers. To stop at
the points of intersection like a dowser with
his wand and feel the strands of our lives pile
across one another with the effortless, central
growth of rings into leaves on the cardinal


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