genre 2
Poetry by Morris Collins


In the morning I find the deer’s leg:
hooved and whole and severed
from the body, though the body
has disappeared, or been taken, or never was.
I’m on the shore, another morning walk
to claim what the tide allows.
I was thinking: sea glass, a perfect purple
oyster shell, driftwood stained with salt.
Instead: this wild fucking gore—
flies buzzing around the red meat,
the wet fur gone gray as the felt
on the pool tables at the bar
where we met first.
You died on this day, last year,
but won’t stop washing up:
a photo slips from a book,
your pink toothbrush rattles in a drawer,
last week I was writing poems about Jonah
who would not answer the call
and, I kid you not, I found notes
I never knew you took in the belly of my bible.
Yesterday, I tried to tell the girl I met at the dock
about you and how I, like Jonah, let the phone ring.
I walked here with her at sundown
in the grove of broken pines
under the cliff and, though I tried
to be actual, everything I said was steeped
in the nimble beauty of loss. Wait for it—
this too is less lovely than it sounds:
we fucked against a pine tree
with a trunk stunted by wind,
too thin to hold with more than one hand,
while questions rose like gulls:
can I slap the mosquito that lands
on her ass? In other words,
when Keats wrote, O for a life
of sensations rather than of thoughts—
this is probably not what he meant,
but he could trip over the deer’s leg
and find the light of poppies
in the wound’s empty mouth
while I came to the shore for something
like this—sudden weather, the sensual
life again—and though in the long term
it didn’t mean much, we made a fire
and sat against a rock, drank the last
two beers and watched the black trees
shiver against the black sky; we were at ease
in each other; if we were not whole
at least we were not measuring
what we had lost. Listen to me—
I claim impermanence, I claim
what the tide allows:
the beautiful thing you tossed away
like a bottle into the sea, your life
a thin stone you couldn’t keep skipping,
your memory
a hard flat rock the gulls break clams against,
and your body gone,
gone as the deer’s, eroded, unscavenged,
whole as Jonah’s gourd
before the maggot came.
Morris Collins’s first novel, Horse Latitudes, was published in 2013 and will be released in new edition from Dzanc Books in 2019. Other fiction and poetry has recently appeared in Pleiades, Gulf Coast, The Chattahoochee Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, and Nimrod, among others. He received his MFA in fiction from The Pennsylvania State University in 2008. He lives in Boston and teaches at The College of the Holy Cross.
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