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
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?