a literary journal published by the Black Earth Institute dedicated to re-forging the links between art and spirit, earth and society
corrected me if I mistook a tamarin for a marmoset
as I held your hand on the zoo’s path.
You, who studied Tanganyika’s cichlids at 8,
you, mesmerized by coral’s synchronized spawn.
What was it we said
at the entrance to the butterfly garden?
Did we tell you to keep your hands to yourself?
Be gentle with these creatures who can lose
but never regrow scales required for flying?
What made you, future scientist, think
we warned you of a power
only you possessed–the curse
that would ground all butterflies?
For years, we lived in ignorance,
your eyes closed tight, your grimace,
the way you pulled your arms in tight,
when a Monarch or Swallowtail
Now, in your lab
as you unwind genes,
fill the gaps left by failed
curiosity, in your fever dreams
where you imagine samples
spoiling next to your too-warm body
I wonder if you feel the shadow
of that time when you imagined
yourself the only one–
as if we don’t all have
the power to destroy, as if
we are not all terrified.
in space, and the thing that wasn’t you yet
hurtled into my sky untethered by forces
that (I thought) we all obeyed.
After impact, your shards regrouped,
became your gorgeous face, looming
so close to my verdant body, held
by my gravity, as I taught you
how the universe worked, how to
bow to the Sun, even as you churned
with lava, radiation, a volatile satellite.
You were just 14,000 miles away.
So close, I could always feel your breath
across my blue/green shoulder.
You made me dizzy as I spun,
my days lasting just five hours.
Over the years, I have watched
as my relentless tides pushed you
farther into the deep–imperceptible
at first, as your surface became
more calm, more desert-like.
Already you are nearly 250,000 miles away.
But ours is a longer measure
and I can’t help but imagine
how it will be when you finally
break free of me.
When it’s done, I will teeter, wobbling in space,
my seasons careening from summer to winter
in hours or days. My tides will be unhinged,
and for lack of you, everything I’ve built
over all these long millenia
will be dust and ash once more.
Patricia Davis-Muffett (she/her) holds an MFA from the University of Minnesota. Her work has won numerous honors including honorable mention in the 2021 Muriel Craft Bailey Memorial Award, and first honorable mention in the 2021 Outermost poetry contest, judged by Marge Piercy. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Atlanta Review, Pretty Owl Poetry, Quartet Journal and Comstock Review, among others. She lives in Rockville, Maryland, and makes her living in technology marketing.