Angel Bones

Verse is honored to share a preview of Ilyse Kusnetz's Angel Bones, out this week from Alice James Books. Of the collection, Mark Doty wrote, "In the face of her cancer diagnosis—'candle-bright spots in the marrow'—Ilyse Kusnetz’s sense of the fragility and impermanence of the world became an inescapable fact. In this second and final collection, the poet tries on every stance she can find toward her own mortality. Sometimes illness is a quotidian fact: 'My hair fell out, I learned to walk again./Before we knew, it was summer...' Sometimes the world she is leaving is radiant: 'wonder at the perfect Hebrew letters/imprinted on a green crab’s back...' What carries Kusnetz through, binding together what could have been the chaos of her last days, is love, the way she is held in her beloved’s care, the way she holds him firmly in her unwavering gaze. Angel Bones is a book of love poems, a testament to the way two lovers held strong until the end, and it leaves its readers more than saddened. We’re strengthened."

Blessing for Beauty

Maybe the universe wants to spare me the apocalypse,
maybe it wants me to counsel the dead,
maybe the cancer finds me so delicious
it wants to consume me from the inside out… 
Oh, trees, flowers, small animals at the bird feeder—
cardinal, blue jay, tree mouse, mourning dove, 
woodpecker, grackle, squirrel— 
you have all given me such pleasure,
a lift of the heart, a sudden intake of breath—
it’s what makes us believe in a heaven— 
even if sorrow lives like a seed
inside beauty, because we know, we know
it cannot last. And so—
here is my blessing to you: 
May this beauty fill the unexpected vistas 
of your life. 
May you be opened by it—to the world, 
may you open, rare flowers, to each other.

Scientists Prove Chemo Brain Is Real

I am
what was I
talking about
something with leaves
yesterday, a tree, maybe
the fuck I don’t
remember how
to com-
plete that thought
if you put 
knowing where
it would help
I meant to
and if I can’t make 
narrative minced
into what
did I already say
bility of the mind’s 
word, or
doors invite
oh windless tree
am I

Sometimes Time

Sometimes time perches on the invisible
throne of rolling metal, the sting of Don’t die.
Sometimes time disintegrates into an ocean
of timelessness, creating infinite possibility,
especially when you’re supposed to go
according to the doctor’s prognosis.
Sometimes time is like watching whales
breach fearless with instinct and practice,
as you and I learned to be
day by day, moment inside moment—
moving toward each other like memory
passed one body to another.
Call it source code or tachyons, call it
what you will. We’ll hear each other, we’ll know.

A Notion of Time According to Physicists (After I Die)

If time is an illusion. If time is just
a way to measure energy, expended.
If it curls in a dimension all its own, if a stretch
between here and there, past and present.
If all the moments of time were sliced
so thin, they composed an entire universe.
Imagine how after, we’ll choose our scattered
narrative, glow of connection
in this possible, holographic world,
a world into which we reach, far away and
near, gathering what we can re-
member, wherever we catch our heart’s
flame, like sephirot, each recollection
a part of who we were—scattered seed
for the feeder’s conference of birds—
the mourning doves and cardinals, the jays
and red-headed woodpeckers diving into
seed and fruit—the bright patchwork
cushion we bargained from the Grand Bazaar
when Turkey still breathed—a free nation—
the wild horses on Dartmoor as the wind
blew strong, and our hair tangled into curls
as we climbed to the top of the Neolithic
standing stones to spread our arms wide
and capture the sky and stars.
We’ll find all our moments, I promise—
inside time and out of it, even if time
doesn’t really exist—I’ll clasp all the energy
your veined, beautiful hands conjured
into mine as we walked our path,
our synchronous, ambered time, all we
shared and took our pleasure in,
all we knew as we lived our mortal,
time-filled lives. I give it all to you.