ISSN 1545-2859





Voice in the Whirlwind*

I know about the birth of the mountain
goats, have kept vigil for the birth pangs
of the does, have numbered
the months that they must fulfill
and calculated the time of their bringing forth.
They crouch down and bear their young;
they deliver their progeny in the desert,
but I do not know why you have done this,
why the earth cries out and is afflicted,
why it cries out as if in labor
and does not bring forth.

In the high mountain meadows of Utah,
deep in the green with the rich texture
of newly printed money, the lambs
struggle to their feet, each spring,
their legs growing a little shorter,
the shanks diminishing, as the breed
is genetically engineered for its haunches,
so that one day nothing will frolic
in these pastoral scenes but
a rounded rump, a chine of living

I asked the beasts to teach me,
I lay down among the grasses,
I asked the birds of the air to tell me,
the snakes and the bright lizards
to instruct me, I cast my understanding
into the waters of the oceans,
the rivers, and the lakes,
and asked the fish of the sea to inform me,
but they could not tell me why
you have done this.

In the fields of Eastern Europe, in the pastures
sown with abandoned mines,
the fireflies flicker every night
as they hunt for the sweet sexual
scent of TNT, the landmines
emitting a faint odor
that the fireflies are drawn to
as once they were drawn to
the male and female of their own kind...

My days have passed away, my plans are at an end.
Such men change the night into day;
when there is darkness, they talk of approaching light.

Another phosphorescent
glow, pheromone of longing,
now trembles in their cells
so they wish to mate with dynamite.
Created in the shape of our desire
to locate the hidden mines
that we buried in the earth,
they are tiny whirlwinds of agitated light
gathering above the earth, fathering

Because you could not look into the faces of the wounded
without believing only in the wound.
Because you could not look
into the face of the wound,
even the wound you yourself have inflicted
and love it. Because you could not
look into the face of the wound
without wanting to erase
its puzzling gaze. Because you believe
only in your own necessity
to exist, because the universe
owes you this, even the birds
of the air, the creatures moving
upon the face of the earth, and
those in the depths of the sea, I have turned
away from you, I have spit you out...

In upper state New York, in a sterile
laboratory, a special breed
of white mouse is growing
a human ear in the skin
on its back. The whorl
rides upon its spine, as the tender
lobe, the spiral of human flesh,
takes shape like a fetus
in the placenta
of the mouse's almost transparent
skin. The mouse is pure,
a genetic X, its skin
like the thinnest
of veils, revealing
the ear caught in the net
of its veins. As it moves through the
cage, the mouse stops, tentatively
turns toward the glass, as if it could hear
the voice of the whirlwind on the other side
with that human ear pricked
on its back, listening, listening...

I know that you can do all things,
can stretch out your hand and give
an ear to a boy who was born with none,
can stretch out your hand
and all the firstborn will be born without limbs,
can send the creatures of the air
to find the weapons which you have hidden
in the valleys and in the mountains, can feed
the hungry with food that will not sustain them,
can heal the sick so that they bear within them,
the heart of a monkey, a pig's liver, the kidney
of a murdered boy, can make the dying outlast
the organs of their own body, can transform
a desert into a garden, and make a desert of the earth,
and no purpose of yours can be hindered,
and that your wonders are infinite,
beyond number. I have dealt
with things that I do not understand,
things too terrible for me,
which I cannot know.
I have heard of you by word of mouth,
but now that I have seen
how you truly are,
I tremble with fear and sorrow
for all that lives and breathes.

*Bitters (Copper Canyon Press, 2001).

Copyright © 2004 REbecca Seiferle. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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