January 17, 2020

If I were lighter and more buoyant,
My bones not of lead
Nor my humors of mercury,
Then this ocean floor may not have
Chewed the soles of my feet so savagely.
If only you, Herophile, had been
My sandals or cast the Hooded One
To walk alongside me
Beyond this aquarium of audience.


Washed ashore by the unforgiving tide,
Entombed under windswept dunes,
The blowing sand eroded my eyes
Into graves, hollow and grim.
I, victim of Hera, held tightly
To seashell books, tracing their patterns anxiously,
My trembling fingers venturing their bounds.


A barren cadaver, fetal-postured,
Sits in the arid Andean Highlands
With its architectural framework held fast
By chords of tendon and camelid fibers
As an army of silkworms circumvolves the bones,
Spinning tightly-woven and brightly-dyed
Death-blankets of wool and cotton.
Layer after layer, the bundle grows to a heaping mound,


As caricatures of shamanic trance
Sewn with metamodern foresight
Are woven into the textile’s patterned canvas.
The charming embroidered icons
Sing loudly and cry out to the stars
Until two twin moths tear strand from strand
To crawl, dampened, from the tangled birth-nest.
The skeleton moth rattles its bone-wings
As it spins circular glyphs in desert sands,
Its left wing too cumbersome for flight.
The spirit moth soars and sparkles,
Weightless in the moonlight,
Dancing with the spirits of Peruvian mountains
In celestial fireworks of glitter and ash.


Unfurling under the searing sun,
I’ve dictated seashell dreams
To impotent scribes, deaf and limbless.
Contemplating desert sands from a house of mirrors,
Eyeless, pot-bellied, and blistered.
I’ve traced water lily roots to the wellspring.
There, sprites quaver muffled hymns
With rags packed in their mouths
And ghastly spirits rattle about
In cramped prisons of plastic bliss.

Derek Engen

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Georgetown University, Washington D.C.

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