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Three Poems

Issue 121, Summer 2023

The Mouth of Krishna #898, 2022, a photo by Albarran Cabrera © The artists. The second edition of their book, Photographic Syntax, was published in May by The (M) éditions

WHEN GULU GOT LANGUAGE


Blowing fat kisses at the boat on the bay,
which he calls CAR, our boy, a buncake,
a ballooning-over, yelling his own name
GULU GULU GULU! When Gulu wakes, he shouts

waWA, after the barking of a dog, for all
the creatures: first, the peacocks on his curtains,
embroidered bees, the sea anemone tattooed
on my wife’s arm. MAMA is a noun, both milk

and me, and as verb means I want, both engine
and object. And he wants. To touch everything
he names. Next it’s the balls: first the bouncy pink one
from the supermarket, apples, oranges and out the window,

bright buoys on the boats. At the ripply hats
of mushrooms in our basket, he calls CRACKER, squints
BALL, revises: waWa, the way I too keep stabbing
at each rainbowed surface of this place, WOW!

[Small rusty voice] in each room
of his world: WOW to the tail
of the dog, dancing, to the wheels
on the chair, the red car, the monstera plant,

leaves like Swiss cheese, WOW to the great green
ball of the earth: its beautiful things attached by
strings to all its beautiful words, tugging, tugging—

 

 

SWIMMING LESSONS

for Athol McLachlan

When the baby has the virus, the donor’s father lights a candle;
he hasn’t met him but he’s in him, and isn’t more
love good? Our strong boy heals fast. He looks nothing like
me but just think, my mom says, how he extends our
genes: so big and tall. Watch our baby swim, his glorious
kicks, fat calves, muscled lengths. I never loved my
body until I learned to swim: frog your legs I say inside
my mind—arrow your arms, until my body knows and
finally alone with itself, is naked as joy. When I was a kid,
I lived inside books, galloped the lanes of my mind. If I
had a temperature, a cough, a cold, I went to bed.
On the island we piss in the bushes and the sea soaks
all aches in bright bone blue.

 

 

ARCHIVING WHAT WE SAW


Kiss of mud on our boots,
We try to not miss the day’s best
Light. It soaks the grass…

It’s possible to really see, but
Only for a minute. It comes to me
One morning while staring

At the bog willow in the fog: the whole
Cosmos piecing together around it. Then—
Wham—it’s a tree again. But why be sad?





Nomi Stone

Poet and anthropologist Nomi Stone is the author of three books, most recently Pinelandia: An Anthropology and Field Poetics of War and Empire, finalist for the Atelier award (University of California Press, 2022). Her poems appear in the Atlantic, POETRY, American Poetry Review, Best American Poetry, the Nation, and the New Republic.