Reconsidering Humanity & Interspecies Communication
Playlist by Janice Lee 7 poems
These poems consider a larger habitat than just one that is human, a larger vantage point than just the human “I,” and ask us to reconsider the relationships that separate, bond, and connect us.
1. The Dog of Time
Brenda Iijima
2. from “Fur Birds”
Michelle Detorie
3. Human Habitat
Alison Hawthorne Deming
4. A Prayer to Talk to Animals
Nickole Brown
5. Mixed with always:
Soham Patel
6. Remember
Joy Harjo
7. How the Milky Way Was Made
Natalie Diaz
The dog of time pitchfork canter laced with mercury after-crave
any semblance to human is speculative, we’ve unburdened the
mass, the massive body signage, bondage, turf implant
unwiring programs and last resort paradigms
indicated by the spikes in goneness unknowable
flash how it feels to be a terminator
to be livestock replenished
caretaking around the pain
dogs of the animal in motion in deliberation
carrying on over cloud cover
as the twilight descends the animal is secreted
ocean compression and endless body spills
the edges are dissolved
animal highlight
animal awareness
animal forever
the light is diminished
water spills over and the heat is a harbinger
and who is subject to this authority
rescue and an epistemological critique
and cross a proscribed threshold where the forest once was
now an emergency living space
I’ve forgotten all my songs. The garden
rows like swamped in ruins. Dust
in gates, mesh wire swinging. We’d
cling to ours if we’d only known.
She thought this to herself before bed

every night for a week.



* * *



two
dead things

when
did you become
so lonely?

one thing could
fit inside
the other: mouse, bird-
wing. glossy black
tail to feather

because I am
afraid of breaking
things

wick quick
to flame

everywhere
there is water
water

a body in the hand
(seed spread
through secret
channels)

every time
someone is kind
to me I feel
like breaking



* * *



It was about forgetting and hurt feelings & beginnings. We worked in rows, our arms swinging back and forth, the needle hemming slow and long, the stitch singing. When I closed my eyes she sings a song. She is my twin scissor. We swing and twitch the tune, the lungs brimming. At first it felt like all I ever wanted was a hug, and a lung. But now the burning coils of plastic unspool the glossed rots of synthetic hair and combs, watering cans, and crimson boots. All these others out there—out here— hand to hand we almost touch. No matter how we look at it—we are either all together or else we are all alone.
Some did not want to alter the design
when the failure message
said massive problem with oxygen.
Some wanted to live full tilt with risk.

By then we were too weak for daily chores:
feeding chickens, hoeing yams,
calibrating pH this and N2 that . . .
felt like halfway summiting Everest.

We didn’t expect the honeybees
to die. Glass blocked the long-wave
light that guides them.
Farm soil too rich in microbes

concrete too fresh ate the oxygen.
We had pressure problems,
recalibrating the sniffer.  Bone tired
I reread Aristotle by waning light.

Being is either actual or potential. 
The actual is prior to substance. 
Man prior to boy, human prior to seed,
Hermes prior to chisel hitting wood. 

I leafed through Turner’s England,
left the book open at Stonehenge. 
A shepherd struck by lightning lies dead,
dog howling, several sheep down too.

The painter gave gigantic proportion
to sulphurous god rimmed clouds
lightning slashing indigo sky
while close at hand lie fallen stones

dead religion, pages dusty
brown leaf shards gathering
in the gutter yet I cannot turn the page
wondering what I am and when

in the story of life my life is taking place.   
Now what.  No shepherd. No cathedral.
How is it then that I read love
in pages that lie open before me?
Lord, I ain’t asking to be the Beastmaster
gym-ripped in a jungle loincloth
or a Doctor Dolittle or even the expensive vet
down the street, that stethoscoped redhead,
her diamond ring big as a Cracker Jack toy.
All I want is for you to help me flip
off this lightbox and its scroll of dread, to rip
a tiny tear between this world and that, a slit
in the veil, Lord, one of those old-fashioned peeping
keyholes through which I can press my dumb
lips and speak. If you will, Lord, make me the teeth
hot in the mouth of a raccoon scraping
the junk I scraped from last night’s plates,
make me the blue eye of that young crow cocked to
me—too selfish to even look up from the black
of my damn phone. Oh, forgive me, Lord,
how human I’ve become, busy clicking
what I like, busy pushing
my cuticles back and back to expose
all ten pale, useless moons.  Would you let me
tell your creatures how sorry
I am, let them know exactly
what we’ve done? Am I not an animal
too? If so, Lord, make me one again.
Give me back my dirty claws and blood-warm
horns, braid back those long-
frayed endings of every nerve tingling
with all I thought I had to do today.
Fork my tongue, Lord. There is a sorrow on the air
I taste but cannot name. I want to open
my mouth and know the exact
flavor of what’s to come, I want to open
my mouth and sound a language
that calls all language home.
Your songs
            are the impossible ruins
            that keep the hours on turn.
            Keep awe bare like
sound at night.
The candle burn. Ice
melts and wax. The dirt
on your mind. Engines roll
in clutter. Clank cool
and electrify the room.
We always
become mysterious—
birds at the end of each evening.
Whoever does the telling stops
time like a crescendo. We hit
blue notes so the edges
of your honey jars rattle laughter
against our teeth.
Rhythm breaks
like need or the knowledge
a mouth organ has
about breath and tone, blood
and gravity and balance—
all those sweet sounds
that can make even
windows shatter.
Remember the sky that you were born under,
know each of the star's stories.
Remember the moon, know who she is.
Remember the sun's birth at dawn, that is the
strongest point of time. Remember sundown
and the giving away to night.
Remember your birth, how your mother struggled
to give you form and breath. You are evidence of
her life, and her mother's, and hers.
Remember your father. He is your life, also.
Remember the earth whose skin you are:
red earth, black earth, yellow earth, white earth
brown earth, we are earth.
Remember the plants, trees, animal life who all have their
tribes, their families, their histories, too. Talk to them,
listen to them. They are alive poems.
Remember the wind. Remember her voice. She knows the
origin of this universe.
Remember you are all people and all people
are you.
Remember you are this universe and this
universe is you.
Remember all is in motion, is growing, is you.
Remember language comes from this.
Remember the dance language is, that life is.
Remember.
My river was once unseparated. Was Colorado. Red-
fast flood. Able to take

       anything it could wet—in a wild rush—

                                 all the way to Mexico.

Now it is shattered by fifteen dams
over one-thousand four-hundred and fifty miles,

pipes and pumps filling
swimming pools and sprinklers

      in Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

To save our fish, we lifted them from our skeletoned river beds,
loosed them in our heavens, set them aster —

      ‘Achii ‘ahan, Mojave salmon,

                                Colorado pikeminnow—

Up there they glide, gilled with stars.
You see them now—

      god-large, gold-green sides,

                                moon-white belly and breast—

making their great speeded way across the darkest hours,
rippling the sapphired sky-water into a galaxy road.

The blurred wake they drag as they make their path
through the night sky is called

      ‘Achii ‘ahan nyuunye—

                                our words for Milky Way.

Coyote too is up there, crouched in the moon,
after his failed attempt to leap it, fishing net wet

      and empty, slung over his back—

                                a prisoner blue and dreaming

of unzipping the salmon’s silked skins with his teeth.
O, the weakness of any mouth

      as it gives itself away to the universe

                                of a sweet-milk body.

Just as my own mouth is dreamed to thirst
the long desire-ways, the hundred-thousand light year roads

      of your throat and thighs.