What we eat in my dreams
is always the forbidden: bread and more bread, a failure
of imagination. We are not calling it the long emergency,
but we are not not calling it that. Is this like the first silence
that fell between Adam and Eve?: what needed
to be named, what shook
with meaning but held still between them—
knife wrapped in a towel, ghost in the soapdish
waiting to lick the salt from our palms. God,
how amazing and useless to shower in summer,
the word no one comes up with for when you stay
long after you’re clean.
I gargle with salt, worry a chewed inner cheek with my tongue.
How did I get here, having done all I’ve done to myself?
“It’s all happening,” I whisper to the succulent as I water it,
knowing this is always true, that I could say it
and mean it whenever, but right now I am thinking
about indoor plants and where they imagine
the water comes from. Do they know about domesticity?
Do they know I have a will different
from the sky? That I can be blamed for things.
I feel it now, what happens next. This is when I tell you
that a third of Americans may not be able to afford
clean water in 2020, a year that is taking shape
all the time, and starting to get claws. This is also
a Monday, a new story breaking out into the work week:
a letter signed by 15,000 scientists about hurtling
toward destruction like they haven’t noticed we already know
and we have stopped in the road, in our deer suits.
No one much talks of agency in suspension—when
you are trying not to happen to anything, how much effort
it takes to remain.
Katie Willingham is the author of Unlikely Designs (University of Chicago Press). Her poems can also be found in Iowa Review, Diagram, Poem-A-Day, Kenyon Review, Grist, and others. She is the poetry editor for Michigan Quarterly Review. You can spot her in person most of the time in the wilds of Brooklyn, New York, and online always in her virtual home at katiewillingham.com.
Image: GeoffS, morguefile.com