Half-Ourselves & Half-Not

By Colin Cheney Colin Cheney
If you sleep the night inside someone, her cells,
saltwater-stained, fuse with yours like the blood of twins.

Apes in Mauritania grow stronger, Galileo tells us,
influenced by the sphere of angels.

Here, then—thumbnail sketches
for zoning changes along the riparian bank

of the species boundary, for a chimera.
Like fiber optics, human nerves

lay along glassy bone & spinal veins of a fetal mouse
that will be drowned before ever waking.

A hen’s brain replaces a quail’s—nodding, cooing,
not understanding the change. Less human, less nature.

Less solace in these songs half-ourselves
& half-not. Did I wake you, my singing?

Here, the sphere of angels & here the sphere of sea.
Darwin, writing in his garden, remembers the sea

like some sleep he feared he’d never wake from.
If all men were dead then monkeys make men,

he noted for himself, &, almost as an aside—Men makes angels.
If my nerves were fed to an osprey, a finch,

could she still take wing? Rain
behind the bedroom blinds, I will wake, won’t I,

to your cells replacing mine, this cape lionness
liver, aorta of a garter snake, &, from a goat twisted

with an orb spider, milk boiled down to silk, gossamer
the structure of Bethlehem steel?

Source: Poetry (September 2009).


This poem originally appeared in the September 2009 issue of Poetry magazine

September 2009


Colin Cheney is the recipient of a 2006 Ruth Lilly Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation. His poems have appeared in American Poetry Review, Crazyhorse, and Ploughshares, among others. He teaches at New York University.

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Relationships, Love, Men & Women, Arts & Sciences, Philosophy, Sciences, Desire

Poetic Terms Free Verse

Report a problem with this poem

Your results will be limited to content that appeared in Poetry magazine.

Search Every Issue of Poetry

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.