Elegies As Unique Ecosystems
The prompt is Poplar Trees, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one before. My brain these days is a rolodex of green-sheened shapes that go nameless for years. Perhaps I was one, long ago. I’m learning to believe in past lives, in living out the centuries over and over. I scale every tree I could have been, from sycamore to dogwood. Like their limbs, my body holds these storms, a weightless dreamcatcher.
These days, I keep lists to keep sane. Tooth. Flame. Childhood. The laws of nature. I categorize the living and the dead things in a single color-code. Only when they become a piece of the past can I tell them apart.
The prompt is grieving, another word for history.
It’s not enough
to wants things to stay the same or
to trap them between blistered fingers or
to squeeze them till ripened juices sick with sweet
run down your wrists. The air is filled
with their sweetness, but it is also filled
with the perfume of our bone-dry Eden.
It is filled with smoke signals.
We must want. We must want want want. All I can do is want. These days I’m writing down all the ways a man can kill and they somehow all rhyme with want.
The prompt becomes spilling. So here we are again, spilling guts into each other’s hands as an act of compromise; an exacted price for what we’re calling love in these barbarous days, our final prize. Yes, your body is kindling, my teeth a matchbook. I clamor and strike in the dark. We spill out of bed, the tumbling ash and weed of tomorrow. It can’t come soon enough, and still it cannot stay way.
Record heat can be a synonym for axe man. Unprecedented is one way to spell blood bath.
It came to me in a dream, one way or another. I need you to understand. Picture it: the field is a receptacle for boyhood, that boyhood which evolves into a more dangerous variant, the kind with iron teeth and hunger for what we become mid-scream.
The field is a wasteland. It’s a tectonic after-image of synthetic green that tremors like your limbs when you orgasm. It’s saying the world hasn’t changed, we have.
The field is an absence that makes the heart grow fonder, but does a heart know the difference between absence and ending?
The field is
The field is no longer a field at all, it’s bubbling grit, a liver boiled in an oil-slicked pan. It’s mud-thick blood pooling the only way it knows how.
The field is our bodies. Picture it, picture it.
I wish we could stop sinking.
The prompt is predatory, the way time licks its wounds.
Teach me to stop. Stop my body from churning like bacteria in a gut.
Teach me to witness these boils, the bubbling pop of flesh in future-tense, as a sign of martyrdom, not ignorance or indifference.
Teach me that there is still love to be pulled from the chasm in my throat.
Teach me to be kind again. To hope again. To bury my bones in the soil so I might grow again.
Teach me how God pulled light from the dark, how he made hands so that they could soothe the howling land.
Teach me what words, what spells, can keep debris from sailing across the river’s face, the dredged bodies of having and taking.
Teach my body to forget you as it kaleidoscopes through the eyes of men I pray will live through tomorrow, men whose bodies ignite their own fires deep below the earth, men whose teeth can sink deep in the dream of me. Who is the you amidst all this?
Teach me that no stanza can tell me when it’s time to let go.
The prompt doesn’t matter anymore, but I begin to understand how the poplar trees become legend, become myth, become nothing more than what was; how we become what feeds the wasteland long after we’re gone.
The prompt is a stream moving somewhere below the earth,
silent in its pursuit of the ocean. I am learning to dwell
amongst the dead things; they are teaching
me what it must mean to live.
Daniel Brennan (he/him) is a queer writer from NYC, who spent his childhood in the lush Blue Ridge Mountains of Pennsylvania. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Passengers Journal, Garfield Lake Review, North Dakota Quarterly, Sky Island Journal, and ONE ART, among others.