River of Milk

bear with me      it wasn’t long ago I was brainless
lazily pulling fireflies into my teeth       chewing them

into pure light       so much of me then was nothing
I could have fit into a sugar cube      my body burned

like a barnful of feathers        nothing was on fire
but fire was on everything       the wild mustard

the rotting porch chair         a box of birth records        eventually
even scorched earth goes green       though beneath it

the dead might still luxuriate in their rage     my ancestor
was a dervish saint     said to control a thick river of dark milk

under his town        his people believed
he could have spared them a drought       they ripped him to pieces

like eagles tearing apart a snake    immediately they were filled
with remorse       instead of burying him        they buried a bag

of goat bones and azalea      my hair still carries that scent
my eyes      black milk and a snake’s flicking tongue

does this confuse you       there are so many ways to be deceived
a butcher’s thumb pressed into the scale       a strange blue dress

in a bathtub    the slowly lengthening night      I apologize
I never aimed at eloquence      I told my mother I wouldn’t live

through the year       then waited for a disaster      sitting cheerfully
on cinder blocks pulled from a drained pond      tossing

peanuts to squirrels     this is not the story she tells     hers filled
with happy myths       fizzy pistons and plummy ghosts

it’s true I suppose       you grow to love the creatures you create
some of them come out with pupils swirling       others with teeth