By: Jennifer Calkins
A room. A table. Two chairs.
A scrape, the window, a flash of light.
Hands rough with scars,
criss crossing veins, grown blue with cargo.
Why the three drops of blood on the bathroom floor,
the tissue in the unforgivable location,
the feathers, the unwrapped body?
Lost shadow, lost dark rings, lost side of the door,
the cage, the window
Lost and then a flock of waxwings. Never
Why the creature with its heart cut out, side by side?
Why the fingers, why the feet, why did you tell me
nothing nothing nothing?
Why were you so sad?
I waited to ask until the sun shone
on the other side of the clouds,
until I could feel the mist
from the open window of the airplane,
until I began to fall,
until I was hung and gone.
Why the carapace of shame,
the standard bearer of resentment?
Why, always, the presumption of guilt?
All we once knew. Pomegranates and slit palms, grey yellow grey.
Teeth like gravestones. Staring eyes,
a mouth flat as a road.
Why make me a placeholder for your loneliness?
Like cups in a rainbow. Flat earth,
a creek vanishing into the sand. Red roof dullness.
A stone seat with smiling babies.
A gate made of shadows.
The mourning doves with their whooing cries.
Why the trap, the hard stone encasing,
the crack up the middle, the bench ready to break?
slow- moving glacier, thaw?
Why ice storm?
Colored pebbles smoothed by ocean,
smoothed by dew.
Brightness, a sense of a shore, a tiny lap of water. Intuition. Your sorrow.
A word with no meaning.
A word inside my cheek I bite now.
A word you ignite on the table as you walk away.
A word as you stand in the station, years later, awaiting a train, my train, but not awaiting me.
A flame red maple leaf. A torso emerging
from clouds, head afire, a bright red greenman.
A word that means conquer.
Invocation No. 14
I call on the illness of my winter, on vomit and sputum, mucus, and phlegm. Blood on my pillowcase, blood on the floor and the ceiling, blood soaking the gauze, the washcloth, my dreams. The blood of moments and hours, of days and weeks, of months, years, decades, centuries. I call on the blood of millennia.
I call on the green glow of infection, the body’s trembling rush to heat. On antibodies and on Demerol, on relief and on dread. I call on all my horror is for naught.
On this will be soon be over, this will never be over. I call on the children, the hospital bed, the intubation, the sinus swabbing.
I call outside the window. Step outside the door, the illiteracy in the ways of the world. I call on eastern gray squirrel, tail wag, upward facing tree. I call on spotted towhee, black-capped chick chick chickadee. Bright eye glance I am seen. I call on western osprey seahawk riverhawk fishhawk gwalch y pysgod wheeling off to north, heart in beak, taloned. I call on the sleep of the mountain, I call on a sleep of the body. The tulips of spring, the intimacies with the nonhuman, the insurgent geology for the end of the world.
I call on the insurgent physiology for the end of the body, congestion and itching, chilblains, and fear of suffocation. I call on just how swiftly was it spreading? I call on the peeling burn and the burning cut, my feet, my knees my hips and my core, my solar plexus, my heart and breasts and gut/stomachintestine. I call on my skin on this heartswallow fear, on this throatswallowfear on the back of my neck my scapula, the back of my head my ears the tips, the nose mouth jaws, the craters around my eyes, this slight headache on the right side, my hair the top of my head.
I call on the youthful dead and the dead of ages, I call on you crossing from this moment into that other space, on you dead before our current pestilence, on you dead after this current pestilence, our future funerals and our past wakes. I call on fire, on flame on pyre, on burning. I call on to suffocate. To hold in absence. I call all spirits to enter those rooms of quarantine, those isolated, those dying and dying and dying alone. I call on our universal embrace, the outside in, the nonhuman and human. The things of this world that are living and are dead I call on there’s only so much letting go you can ask a person to do, I call on so I will keep you I call on a keeping of all souls, a keeping by all of us, the living and the dead, holding together holding tight, an embracing outside of time. The sort of thing that is love.
Italicized fragments are from Karen Yussof, Karen Maitland, Big Thief
Invocation No. 21
I call on buzzing, this housefly and that black and white cat. I call on the orange cat, the space between, the tension, a blue sky and pink ornamental cherry blossoms, the housefly buzzing in the window, buzzing I call on let me help you escape, I call on trap trapping, leghold it’s a trap.
I call on the gray wolves in the east, ghost footfall. I call on the pups, their milk teeth barely out, catching grasshoppers. I call on the whirring of helicopter blades, the rain or hail or whatever it was of the bullets. I call on the rain gentle fall on the bodies of wolves on the bodies of the calves. I call on that pathway, crisscrossing, wolf then calf, then wolf, then calf.
I call on what are the species, on what are the rough cast roadways falling into the stones into the cratered riverway into the water into the freefall? I call on you destroyed. I call on you, disingenuous, I call on the energy of the human fight against smoke. I call on turning, away from the line between me and you and towards some different distant space. I call on you human “caretaker” of a meat that we claim is a necessity to feed us. I call on necessity.
I call on the wolf, in a box, in a tower, in the woods, on an island, on a sea, across a desert, to your doorway.
I call on calf on the mountainside in snow, I call on wolf. I call on everywhere the profanity pack wolves went there was cattle. I call on this meat that is skin and muscle. I call on the slip, fear, fall. I call on old injuries, I call on bite wounds, lacerations. I call on the large blood stain beneath the head. I call on hemorrhaging in nearly all parts of the skull I call on several fractures I call on finger, gloves, fallen, grass, pebbles, dirt. I call on botflies and microbes too numerous to name, I call on you elementals, you fire, water, air, and earth. Investigator of death, interpreter of violence. I call on wolf and cow, I call on nothing remembers but the solid earth, melting into air. A gyre, a holy flame, a snow up to your waist a stumble, a fall.
I call on you tell me the wolf is at the door. I call on you tell me the wolf is over the threshold. I call on you tell me the wolf is beside the bed. I call on you mislaid the name for your horror. I call on the forgotten tongue is the language of love. I call on the badge of dispersion, and the violence gunshot under the bed. I call on the sleep and petals. I call on wolf. I call on wolf. I call on wolf.
Italicized fragments are from plaintiff briefs to the King County Superior Court in the case of Huskinson v. WDFW and the Big Thief lyrics.
Jennifer Calkins is an environmental attorney, evolutionary biologist and author. Her most recent book, Fugitive Assemblage, was published by The 3rd Thing Press in 2020. She can be found at https://linktr.ee/jenniferdevlincalkins. She lives on stolen Coast Salish land (AKA Seattle) with other creatures, including, at times, adult humans.