restricted access Chronicle of the Year, Stolen, and: The Body’s Guide to Evolution
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Chronicle of the Year, Stolen, and: The Body’s Guide to Evolution

Chronicle of the Year, Stolen

By then, everything was battered—shoes, the treesalong the shore, the pot used for rice—

and everyone leaving. No one sat for dinner but stoodover the sink letting the crumbs fall from bread or crackers.

So at dawn they gathered the muscle-thick roots,left the birds in their hiding, left the life

between sky and broken ground.Not one of them remembered how to sing for pleasure.

But they knew to keep watch, they knew how a pebblein the mouth could ward off thirst for hours.

And the others, who had heard of the seaand its treasures, lay down away from dust

or kept silent always. Nothing could call a voicefrom the dry chambers of their throats--

not in the ragged ice of midnight, not at the hourwhen coyotes sing the name of the unlucky.

Not in full sun when a man might drowseover a full belly.

Soon after midnight, I will want to write this down:the horse’s entire body, a chronicle of the year

we stole from shadow, the list of tools keptand the ones traded for meat or liquor,

and how the ink spilled on the kitchen tabletook the shape of an oak leaf or a hand.

Nothing for the language lost when a voice callsacross a canyon carved by a river, the name

of the river forgotten, the river forded onlyduring the dry season every fourth or seventh year.

Soon enough someone will die to cross overand then no one will die to cross over. [End Page 57]

The Body’s Guide to Evolution

Row all night toward the line between cloud and water.Come out of the water like iron.Bless the way with foot, breath, longing.Bless the day Body learned to lie down in waterlike a blue planet inside its sunor a fish happy in the net that holds it.

If skin is the door to the past,salt is the agent that took us there.The edge of the water is whitethe dead as close as the living.How will they sleep in the water’s shadows?What would they sing, if their throats weren’t rusty?

What can we bear and what will we fall under?Hunger? Fingers gone white in winter?The way ice hums, its snap over heat and forgetting?Even the shoe is weary of journey: soleand eyelet, the wrinkled tonguecreeping to one side. One eye closedand one crusted with the sty of not saying.

Where the skin parts, I’ve sluicedthe reds and blues, the part that bleedsand the part, even now, toughening into story.The one that begins with a gold ring and a cup.The one where a girl lives wild in the forest.The one where the gift of three wisheslead the dead to knock on your door deep in blue night.

When I was a fish I wanted to crawl out of water.Human, I wanted my skin to swim open.I wanted to curl in the salt jelly of the bodybefore my body. I wanted salt with everymorsel, meat or melon or fingers--the lover’s tongue, the lover’s nipple.

Too late the frozen seawill run out the body’s rivers.Foot or rim of ear or finger—which partfirst will turn into a stone longing to return?What will remain and what drift back to shore?Language cuts us down to boneand then the body pulls away. [End Page 58]

Janet McAdams

Janet McAdams won the American Book Award for her first poetry collection, The Island of Lost Luggage. She is the author of a second collection, Feral, and a novel, Red Weather. She teaches at Kenyon College and, in 2005, founded the award-winning Earthworks Poetry Series for Salt Publishing, U.K.