1. pockets

I see the painting by Jean Chardin as illness.

The singularity of each oil or vinegar carafe, their silver heads

in high tarnish. The latencies of coming rot

in half-peeled oranges and apples,

the rash of dubious color foregrounding a glaring ham.

Heedless, a tablecloth so white. In its wake

pockets of painterly order empty out, and emptiness

overwhelms the artist’s accuracy at its height.



2. fever

A noise can gather into itself

everything that was decipherable,

stealing every stick of comfortable furniture

a mind thinks it can lock in its house.

Under last night’s breeze, where the memory hid from me,

its fever is still intact.



3. runnels

Deep in the onset of illness: a map. But its place names

are scissored-out. Just the blue

and brown and green unfolded expanse of it

left, if blue and brown and green were the type of foliage

you could see through

to the inner branches, if inner branches

were only sound—

clear, lucid sound though, the kind that passes through surfaces,

the way a view out an open bedroom window

will carry through decades

to reassert itself in a sudden awareness of pine scent.

Yesterday, the sickness, spontaneous runnels left in the mud

after morning rainstorm’s runoff

dried. Today, a network of canals that leaves anchor

and ants travel.



4. no significance

Diamond pattern in the sidewalk

holding its depth so still as to be un-enterable.

That depth had, at one time, belonged entirely to linoleum squares in a kitchen

built on a stillness

that makes even the slowest memory of it

stammer. Linoleum squares, in a repeating pattern,

that I remember counting at the age when I could still let myself

be numbers—

just one number following the next.



5. choice

I try counting so I can sleep.

Heat from the illuminated clock hour, radiant with accuracy.

Heat from inventing this room, this dark, this mind

until I believe I exist.

Figurative heat, which may not throw off enough real heat

to act out its shape in real time.

A little salt left in the crux of silence might be one example.

A little salt crucifix on the otherwise smooth wall

in the otherwise anonymous darkness.

When thought goes a long way away from the point, apply heat

and observe its tracks, which might lead to a fox

with one paw in a trap—

How much I’d hated those stories as a child. How, in every trap,

there was still a choice.

And in every sleepless night, still more to invite back

from forgetfulness

until it prickles with heat’s plumage.



6. sufficiency

Against the window a heavy morning rain, color of my first favorite holy card,

mary of the little flower

dissolving in the phosphorous of dissipating memory,

leaving only this blue sufficiency.

Which stays generous.



7. necessity

Not illness, but anticipation—this blue sky

arriving without regimen of distinguishing clouds. Then blue

dispersing the necessity of sky.

This glass door, but closed to the somewhere to be going.

Then the need to go, no longer apparent, even as interruption

in the coolness of glass, then the clarity

released from any need to see through it–

that would only distract.



8. each sensation

I take a window from its frame,

holding the bare glass in both hands. I align

my shoulders and hips to its weight,

letting its sharpness invite, into my hands, sensations

I hadn’t realized it resembled

in sense organs I am,

in this way, acquiring.



9. visitation

Eclipsing moon tonight—a child walking backward

meets her own nothing left

incrementally, taking

her own measure

from herself. What pivots

in the midst of an experience, and moves to the middle of it.

What is this symptom. Beams in the storm-beaten roof, cinching then swelling,

leak a little rain

into a vestibule I hadn’t visited.



10. moving water

On the hill out my window, cypresses wear bark-sculpted cloud patterns and

aviaries of leaf-float.

In my turn-away, at vision’s edge, little twig-like wraiths.

There are signals.

Which won’t be fitted into episodes.

Not a single nerve path left ossified

from each onset

of sickness. Nothing left in sand from the last

turn of the tide. Where each stranger I’ve been to myself

will step again into moving water




11. an empty porch

A symptom will establish itself in every mirror

that body becomes.

Not as cause, not with any specificity.

A perceiver is a distillate left in everything she sees.

I can’t walk onto the empty porch with its empty chair, in the empty

center of afternoon,

without extending emptiness’s territory.



12. nets

Indistinguishable from body’s surface, a net

of symptoms floats.

A hummingbird’s wings disappear.

A hawk hovers, all air, its shape and color

cloud to the cloud behind it, while a rabbit


and scans the stillness of every shadow beyond its burrow,

making its mortal error.



13. heat

A sickness exercises its options, even as symptoms


An utterance, under-stitched to instinct, speaking

an inverse of sky.

An animal’s belief in water, with water’s scent in its nostrils.

Bright bracelets of air currents

jangle cloud-silence against mountain-silence

and my head starts to ache.

The sweat of dust, rising red

where the evening heat can’t hold it. The animal lifespan of that last ray

of sunlight, already extinct as it touches ground.







Rusty Morrison’s After Urgency won Tupelo’s Dorset Prize (2012), The Book of the Given is available from Noemi Press, and the true keeps calm biding its story won the Academy of American Poet’s James Laughlin Award, the Northern California Book Award, Ahsahta’s Sawtooth Prize, and the DiCastagnola Award from Poetry Society of America. Whethering won the Colorado Prize for Poetry. She has received the Bogin, Hemley, Winner, and DiCastagnola Awards from The Poetry Society of America. Her poems and essays have appeared in American Poetry Review, Boston Review, Kenyon Review, Pleiades, and elsewhere. She is co-publisher of Omnidawn Publishing.


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