On the 80th anniversary of his death, I write another poem about Uncle Al

July 17th, 1943 

Spontaneous as the fly after the Garden 
            spinning up from a trail of spoiled 
meat, the Earth’s first map, spanning from gate 
            and sentry-swords, their ambling flames, 
into a middle-distance like an aftermath, newly minted. 
            Yesterday reminded itself that one year, years ago, 
the Bomb became a gap in the door spilling light like vines 
            loosed from the Garden, but not the Garden, 
rather an iteration, a mutation in the continuum of Gardens. 
            More like a sphere of eyes trailing trick ropes 
trapped in the gaze of a high speed camera, 
            all up in flames, all up in flames, all 
loosed into the world in waves and tangents 
            and particles and piercing strains. 
A rhizomatic sprawl, upheaval coiled like wisteria, 
            scratched cuneiform spelling out the murder 
of the Heavenly Ox. Lo! The fire atlas 
            courses like years over our bodies. 
Two years and one day before the test, you dipped yourself in the river. 

                        The mystic form is 
                        and circular: 

            eye, coil, crater, drowning.

Aubade for Unkind Ridges

A landscape is taken in increments 

shadows mat distance to mountains
            like sopping fur 
there could be bodies in those hills
            for all we know 
massacres wide as mines deveined
            land unrecognizable 
but for thorny history 
            buttes like afterthoughts 
calderas like the children 
            we’ll never have 
parched arroyos named 
            for the long-dead 
anglo ranchers 
            senile State Reps 
pidgin Spanish 
            element indivisible 
from invasive species 
            shadow of a common raven careens
long-decayed coyote transects 
            reverberates the chaparral 
with lullabies written 
            for fear by flies 
dirt prowling with scars 
            at sunrise bruises pool 
over each mile 
            subcutaneous echoes 
carrion footfalls 
            last breaths freshly winged 


the drowned mouse devolving 
            in our water jug 
a decline perfectly preserved 
            just for our gawking 
the horizon 
            the mouse’s slim fingers 
mottled with air bubbles 
across elbow
            dwindle and slouch 
toward myopic backdrop 
            as imperceptible as wishing
how can we reconcile 
            the spout’s iris 
not so much raging 
            but fading 
into molecular reticence 
            we recede into Chisos dirt 
like lapped water 
            what we carried here 
we brought to drown 
            cactus spines 
stones small 
            as indifference 
as heavy 
            this sunrise a capsule 
for our silent veneration 
            of graceless endings 

trace is buried everywhere our
incessant desires drum along
            to foreign bones 
far-off hills scabbed 
craving blisters’ roots 
            pining for the rabbit 
            into bitumen and steam 
our nostalgia 
            like a dog’s tooth 
half-rotten in gums 
            the stains this land hoards 
in unseen numbers 
            its marvels 
our terrors 
            trace the contours 
of a rotting giant 
            whose sunken chest 
our flattened soles 
            stow each harbored hunger
knock for false ribs
            we stumble across sinkholes 
sweet things will do anything for silence

a landscape takes in increments.


Lizards and ants cordon salt from blood
yellow, scarlet, opal. 

The burnt 
out axel maps a continent in char,
a starling makes a nest 
in a fledgling’s head, 
our yearning plagues bedrock. 

Today, clear 
cut of the lechuguilla’s 
palling scent, is all 
vacancy. We listen 
as songbirds 

— C. Rees (he/they) is a poet and writer from southeastern Pennsylvania living in Austin, TX, and can be found on Instagram @17_yrbrood. They hold an MFA from the New Writers Project at the University of Texas. His work has appeared in Frontier PoetryBat City ReviewThe Shore PoetryTerritory, the Action Books Blog, and elsewhere. 

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