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2018 Poetry

Michelle Donahue

PRESERVATION

The canyon delivered secrets: a small fish
aquarium, plastic dusty with cracks,

the baby snake Mother and I caught
that pleased until it rattled, countless

cats: flea-full & wild but bony enough
to turn domestic, bees turned calm from

smoke, content in their deep-hive bodies:
boxes to raise their brood, wild blackberry

bushes. We plunged our arms in those thorns
forgot to wash, inhaled the dust that had

settled on those soft bodies, juice staining
our fingertips like bruises. We collected

handfuls, buckets, added sugar, pectin,
stirred & then boiled until volcanic

dark-ink bursts, then jars, metallic tops,
our sealed-hot sugar for long winter.

The bees are dead again, their bodies husks,
shelled from too much snow, too little

honey. This should have been enough.
I calculated the food they’d need, counted

every woolly body: six leaving a minute,
360 an hour. What magnitude of leaving.

I tell myself I could not have known there
would be so many bodies, how perfect

those exoskeletons, how well preserved.


DOZENS OF BIRDS FALL FROM THE SKY

A morning that rattles
bones. Mom’s vase—

fine crystal, divine—fractured
on the floor. Morning

when my porch-stoop cat
stoops, yowls. Eyes closing, then

closed. Birds surround her
honeybee body. Bodies given up

mid-flight and a body giving
up. Closed-eye cat

in my arms. The vase was Mom’s
favorite, the cat

mine—karmic intervention?
What of the birds?

The grackle a cannonball
with a blue/black body

that glistens. Slim beak
stripped of song,

this lightness when—
a heart becomes glass

shards, black
bodies,

vase falling
then fallen,
fallen.


Michelle Donahue is a PhD candidate in Creative Writing & Literature at the University of Utah. She is fiction editor at Quarterly West and earned an MFA in Creative Writing & Environment from Iowa State. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming from Moon City Review, Bayou Magazine, Hobart, and others.