Who deserves the desert of their own intellect?
The detailed map of our deterioration
directs toward some wavering destination,
De Soto crossing the Mississippi, Descartes
hacking through the jungle of his ontological despair,
twelve desaparecidos locked in the back of a truck
abandoned deep in the forest, discovering
their own minds. Despise yourself in all your
free time. It won’t deter the wings of your desperation
from flying into the lost territory of your
detachment. Everyone decries
the desecration of a rare design—
the toppling of a temple, the uprooting of an orchid—
but we’re desensitized by our own just deserts.
Or is it desserts? The difference
between despoil and describe has been
invisible for most of history, the last Great Auk
shot and stuffed for a collector to enjoy, the last
habitat of this butterfly or that lion destroyed by curiosity,
the infinitely indestructible ego lying desiccated
underfoot. Who is not descended from Attila the Hun?
Who does not determine what is right
and then despise all who are wrong? Watch
your descendants pile the driftwood of your destruction
along the shore and wait for sea birds to return to the desolation.
St. Ursula and her martyred virgins watch
while you use the toilet. Utility is a holy
preoccupation. Only utter the word and a flame
descends to crown you in a useable glow.
The uvea, the iris, the vitreous humor are bathed
in a flicker purely utilitarian. You are a
divine utensil, much like the untouched
uterus pressed to the limits of belief.
No one loved her uxoriously.
Anyone who dreams of utopia
pays usurious interest for an utterly useless image.
The eye sees only where the flame directs.
skɪˈnɪər i ən Skinnerian
A goose, a thread of yarn, both plucked
from their skein, untangle in a swift
slide, the sky wide and skeptical
as you are when your mother lowers the spoon
skillfully to your lips. She never skimps.
No skim milk, no skinny finger bones.
Her children are sleek and fat and you’d
like to be out skirmishing with ghosts, you
want to skewer their skeletons, not
slink behind her skirts. But time skitters
and skips until you are twenty, forty, alone
on stage in a skit about age. Everything
skids to a stop. Everything is askew.
Deep in your skull, a sliver of love stabs
home in the skirl a skylark makes. Last call.
About the Writer
Phoebe Reeves earned her MFA at Sarah Lawrence College, and now teaches English at the University of Cincinnati’s Clermont College in rural southern Ohio, where she advises East Fork: An Online Journal of the Arts. Her chapbook The Lobes and Petals of the Inanimate was published by Pecan Grove Press in 2009. Her poems have recently appeared in The Gettysburg Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Drunken Boat, Phoebe, and Memorious.