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Though all bird-legged creatures fear
the same distance, it is instinct that pulls
them to standing. In the museum
their bodies like sea-glass, an astonishment.
The specialist says we can classify species
by measuring height with our hands.
All but the smallest flamingoes must stand
eight palm-lengths from the earth.
Their legs are the width of paperclips.

This kind of gauging is necessary. To a child,
the globe is cross-hatched dark blue, and it is.
Mathematics form a tent frame. In this way,
a sunrise is one kind of blood, oxidizing.

Today I read in the New York Times that Africa
is splitting in two. Land is metastasizing,
spilling open and sinking, Ethiopia is covered
in holes. I say I am speaking in present tense
but all scientists say we are watching
an ocean, growing at staggering speeds.
Can we say this is a continent, oceaning.
Once, I heard a father tell his older daughter,
you are a clear pool where light plays. Though she
had also been an island, orbiting a large body.

Is this a natural disaster

The thing we feared most in the fires was logic:
We watched the flames leap from the field
to the trees to the house in succession.
Though we found it familiar, close in its grammar,
most of us stayed inside. Today Oakland firefighters
are made out of paper. They write
birch -soaked memoirs. They have lungs
like parachutes and spit up sap oil.

Our urgency comes because
we too are upright, a vertical people.
We are possessed by margins.

I am thinking of the mother who drowned
her three boys, why she stopped first
to undress them. If she was perfecting
a displacement of water, plumbing a violent
kinesis. It was late, on the pier, where one witness
remembered: I saw a woman sitting on a bench
gazing at the water, occasionally looking
from side to side as if she was waiting
for someone.

Posted 04/11/11
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