Foray by Nikki-Lee Birdsey

We fixed the dimensions, slowing the
understanding : you’ll see it yet
the yesterday within this day within
tomorrow wherein we predict the
future by inventing it.

I spent the most barmy parcel
of a day in clear rural thinking.
The perfectly white gazebo against
the edge of the lake, shining,

flaked grey painted floorboards and
my foot, grubby and flecked with cut grass
from walking the gradient slope, strikes as
the only childlike aspect of my body.

While pushing silvered lily pads
underwater lightly, I rise and walk up
again to the white house, the small pops
of fish still feeding at the surface fade.

An American relation asks me what
I do down there and how do I like my
steak these days. On the white verandah
the floorboards hard and warm, I look out

at the tall trees behind the lake in the
gentle distance, the fire tower blinks or
flashes sharp silver periodically amidst
the background of dark green valleys

and mountains. In oil country it’s all rough,
she says, for transplants, but this land
is ours. The high school wrestling team
with baby-faces but built-up bodies bale

hay and stuff the barn in late afternoon,
the yellow glow inside, dark particles floating
around the thick activity and sweat before
they lose the light.

I watch the cows approach and
recede episodically between
chews of dandelion, grass, and
between those chews short

bouts of frolicking. I feel good
contemplating the harvest; neosporin
on my forearms where the hay scratched
while helping the hot teenagers who
scared me with dead snakes found
in tractor wheels.

            I. This the benevolent Eastern.

At night, far away, I dream
the fresh sensation of that lake water—
somnambulist sweats in dark terrors
in this mid-place, the driest place on earth.

The black crows already started,
their paint-thin wings peeling off
with croaked cries emitted from
large predatory bodies. They need

no camouflage at night unlike eastern
screech owls with downy, flat faces.
I am standing in this land, bare, pale,
watching them plural in sky’s explosion.

At the mall on a Saturday you explain
the new kind of hunting camouflage
at Scheel’s that mimics what certain
animals see, like deer, who see

only yellows, greys, blues.
Think how they think, it must always
be dusk with those hues. I give you
everything out of order.

Waking, I remember the sensation
of fear as when I stole Honecker’s
red cushion from the Stasi museum
in east Berlin, walking coolly

out of the preserved headquarters
then running through empty eastern
streets as if in the cold war or worse.
Later, a boyfriend laughs and I’ve somehow

shipped myself all the way to the Odeon,
having dinner with him and telling the
terror while he opens different wines
and smokes and adjusts his cufflinks

telling me to put on a different dress
while I stare owl-faced in the mirror.
I say. He laughs again,
his hand round my large face.

            II. That was a good spring in Paris.

The autumn kingdom gives way to
deeper autumn, the presentation of change
more rapid and varied, but by now
we already know what that looks like

so. I’ve spent the past few months
exploring pathologies of certain
fears traced in various forms.
This sullied fruit, you say, you are

beating the horse out of this moment,
the small life extracted from static events—
Nikkileeopathy is chronic, fearful for
where this is coming to.

Mood architecture has all the same scars
and it starts with the terrible insomnia
that began in New York City,
the evening, september sixth.

Thinking back I could fall
asleep only on my building’s
sloped rooftop in Bushwick,
which was presently immersed

in yellow artificial light
but atmospheric because it was
accidental in my situation,
the city breathing and connecting

in tunnels under water and
above water, cubed anonymity
so that even the inanimate things
don’t care how to sleep. The city

gives and takes in benevolent
abundance. I look out at a perfectly
capturable Manhattan behind
the East river, only 4 stories high,

a few slim stems of buildings against
nebulous island plot, orange furrows
hazing into general night colour; all the while
a low humming of the metropolis cradled

and I in loose isolation up there,
surrounded by slight industrial quiet
in total divergence with light saturation.
I slept well, the edge of the building
a bottom line, the pre-war stone cherubs
looking out at the same.

            III. Here the reversal of polarity.

Reverse the polarity. It’s Fall,
and everything’s aflame, the rapid
consumption of carbon the new
nature which we absorb in our

own bodies’ toxicity and when
we die everybody benefits.
Un-lie me landscape, late bloom,
from then on everyone is watching.

The life so unpopulated with people
generally so the night contains
the millions watching; the lank,
lean faces in windows. Now absent

the sky trees and controlling fluency
of Tasman waters, the particular
blue slanting into dark sands
is just a pathology to fill spaces

in memory and in presence with it
all existing atop something else,
can you locate this. The father visceral,
the mother visceral.

I look for them while we clear
ginger plants, not literally look, because
they’re dead, but I think of them
contained in the tasks they did.

The ginger bright orange, red,
swilled with yellow, clearing it away
because it’s a weed and a danger
to indigenous plants, and we,

as children, walked the many
paths pushed available, paths through
sands, paths scaling cliffs,
paths through the bush, which was dense

and untracked so to be a danger but
nobody cared because nobody died
except when we grew older.
The peach teenager body flapping

then slack off concave cliff covered
in round bulbous rocks, all manner
of greys, the only blood discernible
was imagined—

was the jagged scratches of blood from
the yellow and green gorse his feet trampled
upon lift off, another anglo-weed, impostor,
cleared away as if agreed.

The last wanted jump and the held vigil
with fluff of dune plants shallow in cliff soil,
his body away in the sea so alternately
ferocious. We played chicken

with the tide through rock formations;
we were never alternately indigenous
or precious, but we mourned the corruption
of such a body never found.

Just us sitting in the family’s kitchen,
hundreds of dried, faded bunched
flowers hanging from the rafted ceiling,
it was airy and beautiful there

cut into the valley, poised against
glimpses of mountain the blank
space of the unrecovered,
the unsentimental motion of tide.

            IV. You weep at the farewell to hemisphere.

The gerber daisy in red bottled water
from a spring in Wales on the desk,
a specific northern country, cold,
where I sent and received letters,

looking for ancestral connection;
something in the mausoleum
and folklore about burning the
family relics that is pagan, so say people.

The standard motions of moving
across dirt path to post box, the stamp,
sealed, contained, the homecoming
every special lead to grey-morphed dawn.

This mist pretends on the moor
the window no longer a window
the house no longer full of rooms
the town no longer begins at the gate.

The mist descends on the moor
this is concerted blankness in ancient
heath, but not empty, purple tufts in
dispersed hillocks of grand unfolding,

not a blankness but an openness where
low stone fences delineate archaic borders,
outcrops of rock against the green
that refocuses into misled dusk, to be

constantly asleep for the day
and awake for the turning on
night. I receive letters from siblings
spawned all over the colonies.

At this point, we are at the point
of no return, what is the difference
between honesty of the heart
and resisting the act of lying.

Little house structured easily in clear cut wood
the cream whitewash and deep grey slab,
the day bringing my thoughts to burning stones,
you took me, and we left.
            V. Gone is the last name of family.

Wake up to think early under new
environs, where objects get
unexpectedly soft, malleable endpoints
to alloyed material, pewter and streaked

granite that glistens in place the formation
of quartered measurements or section
through bed on room floor next to end table
which has a lamp with naked bright bulb

but placid, gentle. It shines on the
distinctive properties of space that
becomes shaded or uncovered into new
beings in fascinating sequence. An opal ring

sparkles into view at 4 in the afternoon.
I remember what characterizes the colour
of opals are the absences;
the incandescence assists your colour

in grey no blue light no it’s
slow motion, the associations in
untypical pathways, pushing yourself
to lesser limits, the box elder bug noticed

crawling up the corner crease of the room,
the patterned black shell a moving spot,
a shuffling hole, a deliberate imperfection
attracted to heat that comes from the lofted

vents breathing in flux like a big city
where we lie, marked for life, ready,
the white sheets arranging almost imperceptibly
around the slow pulse, the rise falling of your body.

I just so can’t wait for the night to be done,
moving into another room like a new experience;
the Persian rug patterned as ally, connecting
to all the different objects in bonds loosed and reformed

in a quiet piece, and with all
the old radiators on multiple species
of plant wilt in the caged heat.
Look out the window, the air grey and

the front yard covered with red leaves
similarly wilted and ossifying to leaf
skeletons like tiny crushed skulls like
bad dreams or rough-sketched auguries.

We made it moving in the movement of early dawn,
the plunge and pouring out of evening black and
the gradual receding of space in reverse dimmer.
There are enough moments we are collecting and releasing
in strong sequence.

            The night brings you further away from me,
but the morning draws you close.

            VI. Look, how we stalled the dimensions.