Through this window we watch the fallout
snow from the opened sky, & bury
what is left to us to bury—bury the earth
under not-earth, such whiteness--
We watch it like we once watched the forest.
Do you remember?
as a whale is flensed, its carcass
winched into the shallows, & the long knives
cutting in, stripping its body
into blanket pieces,
into horse pieces, into Bible leaves--
words that carry America skeletoned inside them:
smallpox & cowboys & stories
about blood, & burning, & who was chosen
& who would die, stories once read by the light
of whale-oil lamps, the windows aglow inside the dark
forest daily falling.
in other forests falling,
it’s called the fishbone, this process of deforestation—
the road into the forest is
the spine, the lesser roads the ribs--
until it’s flayed
open, until it’s down to the clay
we use to brick out that which is forest.
A whale, like a forest, cannot lose
consciousness, cannot sleep inside itself
from pain, & instead must swim through
an ocean of it, now red with its blood,
its body turned inside out, & some of its parts--
its fat, for example, its jaw--
back onto the earth its body fled from
millennia ago, its ungulate ancestor--
a wolf with hooves--
dragging its land-lungs back into the water,
its legs back into the fold of its body,
to swim away from the forest
with its thicket of teeth--
now pulled from inside it
with whaling boats and diving whales and village houses
like the one we stand inside
now, you and I, inside this toothless forest
& bright now in the failing forest
comet, asteroid, a bright white flash--
We never saw the explosion. Just the snow
that buries us, this white, this not-earth
snowing around our feet, our knees, snowing
around our ribs, & deeper--
What do I remember from those days? The trees.
How we dug. And dug.
• • •
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CLAIRE HERO is the author of Sing, Mongrel and three chapbooks: afterpastures, Cabinet, and Dollyland. Her poetry and prose have appeared in Black Warrior Review, Boston Review, Cincinnati Review, Denver Quarterly, Fairy Tale Review, Potomac Review, and elsewhere. She lives in New York’s Hudson Valley.