Here’s a lesson: If you leave a hole in the forest,
leave a mouth open in pain, astonishment or grief,
something will come to fill it, blood or baby teeth
or tiny snakes, the cries of lost children, sunlight
looking to bury itself when it’s seen too much.
We say we have seen too much, felt too much.
We say our hands have severed and regrown
so many times over we can’t recognize them.
Those who come here want us to love them
as their mothers did not, but our hands shake
like roots in an earthquake whenever we try
to hold someone, even ourselves. We say our hands
are the crooked mushrooms in radioactive water,
or snake heads with their mouths sewn shut.
We say our hands have no duty to beauty, that land
where the wild go to die, where they’ve slaughtered
all the wolves and wear their skins as coats.
They’ve slaughtered all the wolves and so
we can no longer be gentle. If you come, our answer
will be a fist of wind that blooms behind your eye
and opens the darkness there from which you
were born, darkness you hoped had forgotten you,
and you will feel its touch as the forest floor
feels all the shadows of the leaves at once
before, unable to bear the weight any longer,
it caves into a sinkhole, the way your mouth opened
to breathe when you first entered the world,
or the way your mouth will open in your coffin
for the insects to nest inside it. The lesson is
we’re never empty for long, though one
moment can destroy you, so best keep your
tongue between your teeth if you’re going to go
looking for something else to be.