Clade Song 9

Since the Election

Time fastened onto boxelder bugs
who gorged on leaves and seeds,
then swarmed months ago
when the weather turned cold
and packed themselves tight
into crannies in the stonework.
February now, and as snow melts
and earth thaws, a few stagger from
their refuge in the walls empty,
self-consumed. Since the election, 
my mother at eighty is reliving 
the bewilderments of the girl she was 
in wartime, newsreels inside her head 
unspooling aftermaths of slaughter, 
the camps and piles of corpses,
Uncle Phil coming home in 1945.
Fifty years later, an owl perched
on his hearth and a garden full
of hibiscus flowers, Phil gave me
a sack of seeds I might try
to grow myself in my garden
on the other side of the country.
After an hour with her on the phone
this evening, the light grew vivid,
diffused into a blue coal sheen 
glowing at the windowsill.
There’s no way to talk about this
with my mother now. I'll try
to call back later. Maybe 
this time we will let melting snow
turn into thinking again, imagine 
new instruments so finely tuned 
we could glean traces of DNA 
from the river and summon
every living thing from oblivion
into words. The Koran I saw
yesterday Shams al-Baysunghuri
illuminated in Herat centuries ago.
Every sentence the Prophet spoke
ended in a knot of cerulean, 
a trellis full of vines, flowers of eternity 
found only here on earth.


David Axelrod’s eighth collection of poems, The Open Hand, appeared recently from Lost Horse Press. His second collection of nonfiction, The Eclipse I Call Father: Essays on Absence is forthcoming from Oregon State University Press in the spring of 2019. Recent work appears in Aji, Cloudbank, The Singing Bowl, Terrain, and Under a Warm Green Linden. Axelrod also recently wrote the introduction to About People: Photographs by Gert Berliner, which appeared in the summer of 2018 from Arts End Books. Axelrod directs the low residency MFA, as well as the Wilderness, Ecology, and Community program at Eastern Oregon University. In addition, he edits basalt: a journal of fine & literary arts, and serves on the editorial board of Lynx House Press.