Lauren India Henley
In Arcata, men have problems with their legs.
Some say it's because the land slants towards the sea,
others say it's the moisture in the air,
and I've heard too
it might be the soil.
The problem is one of asymmetry:
pairs of legs as dissimilar as spilled ink,
as potholes, as tossed paint,
as if each leg was an experiment,
a new idea, a rough draft
for a project soon abandoned.
Some legs come this way at birth,
but for most it is a slow dance,
the slowest dance,
it happens while they live their lives,
it happens while they feed or do not feed their dogs,
it happens while they plant their seeds in dark rooms,
it happens without music.
I saw a man yesterday, he had one leg
that was all bone, he had one leg
that was thick with orange and oiled muscle.
He's an extreme example,
more common is the man in his mid-twenties,
his legs are bowed but his pants are new
and he walks with a learned kind of confidence
like someone who has come from very far away
and needs a drink and a bed,
and who maybe cannot live
anywhere else but here.
No. 16 The Massacre in Humboldt Bay
When the first man put one leg
and then the other into the water of Humboldt Bay
then started up the shore,
when the second and third and all the men
did the same,
when all the muscles on all the legs
were taking them forward,
when all the muscles and all the parts
that rotate obeyed—
the hands clenching around smooth wooden handles
that hands themselves had made,
the shoulders extending to wind the hatchets back—
gold was falling from the trees
the way water does even after the rain has stopped,
and the men stuck out their tongues
which were not pink but grey as waterfowl,
grey as female ducks and cranes,
and the men made angels with their bodies
in the gold flake and powder,
some ate the gold right there where they lie
being there was so much,
being that the moment was theirs
and no one was watching
and the moment was covered in gold,
with golden hatchets and knives,
knives and hatchets,
all of them gods,
gods lying on gods,
gods every one.
And that night the women and children
were sleeping more closely together,
the February moon so far away
like a clam shell thrown from a mountain,
the fathers gone and
the mothers feeling more in love
with their children,
and the children, like clean mirrors, reciprocated,
the mothers seeing themselves
for the first time.
They did not notice the change in the clouds,
how they had loosened and were shaking out
a sparkling kind of death.
the ground pushes everything up
that has been planted.
The ground unplants and ungardens,
it undoes so fast that nothing can really be done.
It does not honor your labor, the work
of your shovel and pick, the hours
you have spent, how heavy you feel
the rocks and soil to be. Go ahead and say how big
or how much.
It does not understand pounds or gallons
or the crack in your cart with the single wheel
that carries your load.
It does not worry about your borrowed tools
or what it means to borrow, to ask,
to not have your own.
Even if you succeed with the little hole
you've made with your thumb,
the ground does not honor roots.
Not even a mum will stay.
Whatever trash has been buried
comes up daily. Once, at sunrise,
I saw the crowning of a plastic milk jug,
its mouth first, round and pursed,
then the squat shoulders, the dented handle,
and then it breached completely, slunk back
on the wetness, its filmy belly half-full of ground.
More poems from Henley's series The Finding can be found here in FRiGG Magazine.