Dogbane Beetle

locked, falling: for generations

i imagine two eagles, talons locked, falling to something like death,
but not death– it’s something hard against the walls of your lungs
and the chambers of your heart, and they are falling in love.
they are falling into sex, and into life together, new bodies
that will sprout from their own. they are so loud in their love,
and they are echoes of their parents, making echoes.

this loudness collapses my eardrums, and the world around me
gets a little more quiet, but my head doesn’t. i only hear
the voices i’ve known– every piece of the collage, of the stained glass
masterpiece i’ve been patching together since i fell out of my mom’s
melted, drooping body– messy and hot and fleshy,
burning red like a glazed monster emerging from a kiln.

i hear you standing in front of me on the court,
telling me to follow through, pounding a leathery
ball into the heat-warped blacktop, over and over, sounding
like a beating heart. i hear my own heartbeat in my ears.

i hear my labored breathing, her perched up on her elbows,
the rest of her collapsed on me– straddling, crying together.
we are loud, and she looks like a pretty little bird, and i’m grinning
with every tooth out– little garlic cloves, fucked up
and pearly.

i hear charlie’s leash jingle as he walks into the house,
my little body squealing and running to him,
and he barrels into my arms. he is golden between my little fingers,
searching his fur so carefully, as if i was blind– as if i hadn’t touched him
in a million years– so i could grasp at the comfort of his cloudy body.

i hear stories i’ve never felt or known, feel it all against my hot skin,
overwhelmed, sensing everything. i know my great-great-great grandparents’
memories in my muscles, like an eagle cartwheeling through the air,
and i feel it all bubble over. i am a boiling pot too full,
and my children will be even fuller.


        The voice on the radio cuts in and out for a few seconds before going dead. When the sound returns, it’s nothing but static, and I fall back into my seat, craning my head up to look at the car’s ceiling. It’s beige and matted from all the dirt that’s flown in through the windows on our road trips. She loves the window down, even if I try to remind her that when we first bought the car, she’d run her hands over the soft fabric and smiled. It was pristine then.

        Now, it’s a beat-up Volvo sitting on a dirt trail that’s barely even dirt, really, being so overgrown. I saw a church a while back down the road, I’m pretty sure, but the details just keep fading the more I try to run my fingers over the memory, wanting to trace its outline. I think there was a spire. I should be able to see it from here, but turning my body to look feels impossible.

        I stare out through the windshield, at the tall grass and reeds covering the ground so thoroughly it looks painted on. Reds, purples, greens, and browns blend together into the distance, and the more the sun sets, the more it seems to grow into the sky. It’s sort of beautiful, in an ugly way.

        My skin and clothing stick uncomfortably to the leather seats while I try to shift and readjust. This heat is miserable, and my eyelids feel heavier by the second, and I really just want to fall asleep in the gross humidity of this car, but it feels so much like I’m forgetting something important.

        My mind wanders back to the spire– so sharp and uninviting.

        The radio crackles again, and my eyebrows furrow– scrunching up like little rolling hills with hairs like grass, sticking out at different smooth and bristly angles. The static starts to fill my mind, and my head feels like an ear that won’t pop. The pressure’s building, and the static calls on summer cicadas until it’s blaring– an alarm, warning me, but I get this feeling that it's the danger, too.


        My body is red and raw, cracking like a salt flat, with those same white lines of peeling skin. The resemblance is uncanny, really.

        I’m trying not to fall asleep, the awkwardly hard porcelain bathtub cradling me, and the water both lukewarm and uncomfortable, but sort of soothing. Uncomfortable things have an annoying habit of being helpful in the end.

        The room feels stagnant in a slightly doomed way– like a glass of water left in the heat, impending bacteria and mosquito eggs– until the door opens a crack.

        “Hey… you alright?” a soft voice calls in, and I just grunt in response. “I brought you some aloe. Can I come in?”

        I feel my chest rise and fall in a big sigh, and I call on all my energy to respond a little “Yeah.”

        When she walks in, she looks a little worried, and sits on the stool next to me, towels I’d set aside for myself stacked between her and its wood. “How’re you feeling?”

        I can’t do much but shrug my shoulders, exhausted. “I shouldn’t be surprised. I know I should know better– be better– but I’m just… tired.”

        She nods and I watch her unwrap some cut up brown paper bags, a large aloe leaf wet and heavy inside, a slice already cut down the middle. I close my eyes and feel the cool gel cover my arm, snaking up to my shoulder.

        I imagine a mosquito laying eggs in the water, her hands holding my hair up and out of the way.