Three poems by Rachael Gay
after the experiments of E.O Wilson
They say that insects do not have the brain capacity to worship
or the ability to mourn
but how else can they complete a ritual?
What name besides God does one give to the giant that eclipses the sun,
drips liquid over the living, and
renders them zombies.
The acid-dipped being tells her sisters "I have gone,
take me to the place far away from here."
Instinct tells us we must take them away one by one
lest sickness we do not understand decimate the rest.
One would expect some form of resistance but instead all six limbs slacken
and with it comes the understanding that this, this must be death.
The ant stand among the unburied of the graveyard,
lets her compound eyes settle upon the twisted bodies and says
yes, this where i belong.
The end is a smell, not a sight or feeling.
Does our God feel pity or its its absence the necessity of uncaring?
A means to nameless survival as a species.
Yes, I have always ascribed emotions to the tiniest of things.
Watch the girl child me lift up rocks and expose the twisted mazes below.
Put yourself in their position and imagine the solid sky lifting away and
tell me that the smallest and most forgotten have never felt fear.
heart on cheek
In one pitiful moment of optimism
I imagine our intertwining as a punctuation mark;
the suggestion of something yet to come
instead of the sign of finality.
You complain of your eye twitching but I see nothing
until you put my hand to your cheek
and the deep, single-tasked muscle skips opposite
the current of your heartbeat.
Again, I made the mistake of looking up at the stars with my naked eye
cupped palms stacked against each other in the crude imitation of a telescope.
It was far too early to declare your arrival heaven sent,
the meteor leaving a trail that adds to years of eroded grooves.
I saw your light and declared it to be the first star on the horizon,
the appearance at the golden hour of dusk turning to graying nightfall,
mistaking your glow for something far greater than
the flickering of a plane's landing lights.
It flies over my upturned face in the blackened sky,
a freshly washed blackboard,
and I have to remind myself that while real stars are bright
they are still long dead.
In the spaces in between my breaths
I take inventory of every atom of oxygen
in my overstretched lungs and
if I am unable to rid myself of Caesar's last breath
than of course there is no way to cleanse each bit of hemoglobin
rising to the top of my veins like worms
aching towards the surface with the promise of water.
You exhaled through your thrice pierced nostrils
as your lips occupies mine for the last time.
My lips, unpracticed at reading the braille you write with your tongue
clumsily mistranslates your "goodbye" as "beginning."
on the way home
The petunias trumpet towards sunshine,
the unending damp of this finale summer.
Each and every week I have mimicked them
and stared outwards over fields temporarily brushed with gold.
Today again the sun overhead at a zero angle as
I wander into the all consuming brightness
and pick the haunted petals, identical in color
to hold it against Freon air until it is flash frozen
How could you know any different then?
to consume yourself starting with the feet first, ouroboric,
surrounded by a canopy of self-cannibalizers.
An echo from five years past,
sent from a coastline I have never walked.
There, no one tends the gardens.
I imagine throwing a single sprig of kudzu upon their mattress
and watch the parasite overtake
climb until it reaches the gradient from sky to space
and become the first living thing to thrive in absence.
The fire tempts, begs for your arm with
the knowledge that to singe is to tempt.
That human flesh and rotisserie are one in the same.
Which was the first petal to break off from
the butter yellow daisy behind your ear
that had listened to each song before the world?
Was it she loves me? There will be another whispered one
at the end of the tightly wound staircase
of iron that threatens to bend and groan with every shift,
the rust that has yet to stop flaking.
Nothing lurks in the woods except for the panther's own shadow.
You mime, you mimic,
face painted in the flashes of lightning across
a night sky painted with absence.
You know this by now.
where is she?
May all the trees that surround you be ginkgoes
and drop their masks at the same moment the curtain opens.
Rachael Gay is a poet and artist living in Fargo, North Dakota. Her work has appeared in journals such as Anti-Heroin Chic, Quail Bell, Rag Queens, Déraciné Magazine, Gramma Poetry, FreezeRay Poetry, Rising Phoenix Review and others as well as the anthology What Keeps Us Here (2019).