& Gatherers

 

The combing is constant—even dreaming

our eyes sift scythe-like

 

the pink-black back of the socket. Paths

break in the wake. We curry. We scan.

 

We ran at the minute cracks

sounding the carpet of twigs or the sudden

 

lift and swish of a leaf-hushed branch.

We read. We waited, tensed to recognize

 

the familiar shape, old patterns locking

the keening stomach driving forward

 

the pilot body, receptor of symbols and signs,

like the flagellant that bows

 

her matted, dulled crown

to sky, the curving domain of the whip

 

that snakes and raises red routes

over her back, scribbling the skin

 

into a map that signals the territory

we move to, through, inside

 

the next clearing, to the far screen of trees,

thrumming possibility.

 

Shoots unscroll from the dirt, unfurl

leaves broad and flat as the sun overhead

 

where fruit swells and softens, liquefies

inside skins under the nesting eggs

 

hardening on the branch. Fledglings

abandon. Dearths and lessens, thins

 

and winters. In the hard wither and black

we bend to the track, casting eyes side

 

to side, searching with no end not

our own for the flesh of our backs.

 

***

Maggie Queeney holds MFA in Creative Writing from Syracuse University. Her work has appeared most recently in the Southern Poetry Review, The Southeast Review, and Handsome.

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