by Julie Gonnering Lein


To be driven by—aside, even before physical
hunger; to be driven—above all, perhaps—by a force
more basic and fierce: the need, as tidal

waters know the shore and moon, as honeybees forage
their fields, not merely to explore, engage; but to relate,
ken kin, take in, give. The oil-black bird knows forest

for the trees, the ravines, the wolves she’s alerted
to caribou, to deer. After canine maw and claw
have made the kill and mauled the carcass she’ll alight

on open bone to consummate the meal; she’ll crawl
through flesh and gristle, slick, conserving what remains—
and then so glistened return again to mate and flock to call

them, too, to eat. This is a sign of intelligence: the means
to relate information about something removed
in space or time from that communication—as humans,

ants, and bees have: the ability at home, hill, hive,
to consider {well and ill} an elsewhere, future, past
to learn together. Curious, communal: we’ve behaved

our animal selves. Under this night sky we are well placed
to consider moon and Milky Way, to infer from opalescent
Venus casting shadows—something more. Starry as a planet’s

like to be, in shimmer-shroud of sunlight bent
from thick sulfuric skin—some might say overly reflective
in her luster veil, a highly pressurized, molten temperament.

I’ve gleaned online those slick and sticky, all-consuming archives
of interplanetary missions / truffle guides / phone photos /
news /and news. I’ve sewn a black dress. A three-strand necklace I’ve

inherited lies in a box of other long-caressed mementos
linking my life with others’: locks of babies’ hair, pale yellow
bird-shaped ocean stone, paper scraps, etc. Each day bestows

its only everything. The birds of the air search billows
of trash for sustenance, play, for beauty: eggshell, pebble, tuna tin;
green twist-tie and tinfoil ball; torn lemon peel aglow

in byzantine nest. A keen, mercurial eye. A receptive stance attains
trusting rest in roving flight. And in the wind, a silken rustle—
your hand bent at the ruffle of the solemn, soil-tinted

hem of my dress, smoothing consternation. My blood hustles
back to my heart. My heart raves in its cave, small
hungry sounds: muscle—still—vessel—still—systole—diastole.

JULIE GONNERING LEIN is the author of a chapbook (Glacier, Perfect Tense, dancing girl press) and a winner of the Larry Levis Memorial Poetry Prize, the Hal Prize for Poetry, and The Winter Anthology’s annual contest. Her poems and essays have appeared in Best New Poets, Terrain.org, Colorado Review, Western Humanities Review, Phoebe, and elsewhere.