Marlys West

Marlys West is an award-winning poet and writer. She received her M.F.A. in poetry and playwriting from the Michener Center for Writers, an M.A. in English literature from the University of Virginia and a B.A. in Language and Literature from St. Mary's College of Maryland. She was a Hodder Fellow at Princeton University, an NEA grant recipient in poetry, and a writer-in-residence at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. The University of Akron Press published her book of poems, Notes for a Late-Blooming Martyr, in 1999. Her poetry, fiction and non-fiction have been published in numerous literary journals and newspapers including, Alaska Quarterly Review, The American Poetry Review, Berkeley Poetry Review, Best American Poetry, Black Warrior Review, Burnside Review, Fence, Indiana Review, Mississippi Review, Notre Dame Review, Paragraph, Ploughshares, Willow Review, and others.

Who Came Before
poetry

Now that you are dead and trajectories diverge
the way they do even for the living, with luck
I might breathe in one or two carbon

molecules or uncaught burnt salts
or dust from your eight big bones:
femur, tibia, fibula.

Let me pluck you out of nature.  I want you  
resurrected out of carbon matter.  Maybe
when the forest inward folds 
and a black owl swallows a mouse whose foot 

was the back of your throat.  Whose tail tip.
Humerus.  Ulna. 
Whatever flows from you 

you are: black bird, old dog, white cat.  This
new cup.  A worm.  Fish fins.  Moth wing.
Dull eggs like chalk fists pooled
in a nest in a tree.  Radius.  Black 
widow behind the baking tins.
The dinner could be you.  The plate.  Its wet.  
Dead I seem 
to love you better.  Marriage was two 
minutes of blue fire
then dying flame.  What isn’t?  Fast forward

to the midnight bedside where I put flower 
water in your cup.  You saw me do it.

Brown silk lining the glass vase
full of old flowers and ferns, 
how to put you back in feather?  Your lips
two leaves beneath a wren.

Your mesentery new pellets 
of fur and bones and bloody broken things; 

all that made the creature without its motions
or essential features.  Mouse-like 
but not mouse.


Come here and curl and uncurl in my hand 
in the black flower’s bottom of green 
fruit.  I collect you and press you 

into the ground.  When will I lean against
the heap of you? 
All parts of you?  The seventh rib and eighth? 
That I found?

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