Sarah Wyman wonders whether Bob Dylan ever smelled dusty blood on a divine byway, but bets he’d love Petrichor if he saw it. She believes, like Anton Chekhov’s favorite bakers, in letting a work sit out to sigh a while like a cake before cutting. When not fulfilling duties to the powers that be, she enjoys the cultivated commons of her private garden.
The fish-spine waits,
his array of ribs hardened
to a brittle gray, in anticipation
of some cat or other
who might come along
to gnaw tenacious scent
from bending bones.
Between the vertebrae
a tendon dries,
warping the resistant palm
from its planar grip on falling flesh.
The once supple structure
stretches in a spread of frozen rays—
a startled offering, his half-meshed self
like a generous sieve releasing.
What he once explored
in times more plump
could now traverse his very being.
Each carpal curve
yields less and less
to salty wave or feline tongue.
Last Dig at Tikal
The diggers’ axes woke the toucans
slumbering in the leafy jungle.
They’d come to free the Mayan ruins
hidden in the earth so long. Jaguars
prowling eyed beasts among the vines,
but men looked just the size to swallow.
Men should have seen the flight of swallows,
a sign more stern than clown-beaked toucans.
Instead, they wrestled the stubborn vines,
a woven, twisted, braided jungle
cover, away from stone—no heed to jagged
warnings. Hearts in their spades, passion met ruin.
For each, a life unearthing ruins,
tropical climes amid swirling swallows
beat cocktail parties, driving Jaguars,
filling out tax forms two by two. Can
you imagine a life unjungled?
Their veins had grown to rainforest vines.
They knew the stories of holy vine
wine washing newborns, when ruins
smiled gleaming steps at the creeping jungle.
Jade-decked priests read the arcs of swallows,
watched while howler monkeys took cans
of relics. The diggers dug on unwarned. Jaguars
inched forward, paw by paw—jag’d
wars had honed their claws on the thickest vines.
Dark eyes narrowed to cracks. The toucans
perched on limestone, admiring rue in
the landscape change. But the wary swallows
foresaw tooth-torn death in the jungle.
Maybe the Mayan ghosts of the jungle
feared for their treasure, coaxing the jaguars
on. Certainly not the crying swallows,
hopping in frenzy among the vines.
Men pursued their beloved ruins,
smoothing white stone, watching the toucans.
Swallows winged close, feathers brushing rough vines.
Sprung through jungle curtain, jaguars
ruined the men, their screams shaking the toucans.
The man held the woman’s feet
lovingly to his chest.
As he slept,
down and down she swam
into dark depths
that hid a certain light.
Her legs became a two-lane nameless road away.
Seaweed hair draped on a coral bed,
she remembered the man
only by a clutching warmth in her toes.
Miles high, the man looked down
to see he held a mermaid by the tail,
embellished with a curl of kelp.
Thinking her simply a fish,
mistaking the curve of hip
for a play of waves,
he let go—