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Winter has laid out her tides and the white
birds belly to the ground, their long
fingers, famished
and laden with minerals.
Now is the season for the laying out:
pinioned against God, who is also
and laid out, at length, on the street for all
the good bad people to see.
He is there, long arms
spread eagle,
one trenchant, the other a pillow,
laid out against heaven and desirable;
laid out against the broad brown back of the earth,
gravity’s pitch
and the whole long night with it.

Desolation by word of mouth,
meaning to be
like the sun.
Meaning the birds out of the fledgling ice
drown up and become something
and hollow
the desired wilderness of their hours filled like glass:
waste, and
endeavor, Elijah’s bones
singing in the desert.

Look, it has the tenderness of skin:
a milk white calf
out of heaven and starving.
Here are the plundered colonies of cold
the regions of palliate
long overdue and fixed
in the cadence of early December.

I have never seen such white
porticos; incomparable; such immaculate
of opal glass.
There is the body lying in the street
and the church beyond it
splayed, libidinous,
laid out
for the good bad people to look at.
The impurity of such balances makes the world shudder,
so they attribute their afflictions to the cold
and shrug on.

Each breath is eaten privately
into the living charge of gravity.


By midday they will have gone, the white
birds and their tithe.
They do not assemble to be mean
or costly.
They are not amenable to the fixtures of war;
or to the milk tender twilight;
or the paucity of hours clinging to day,
baring their white pennants
the breadth of one dusk
to another.
They are drawn out by the withered east,
and its selfish twilight;
laid out
in only repose, repose,
they answer to almost anything.
Not a scrap remains
but the loose eddy of days to relinquish
and the sun compressed
like a nerve at the base of the spine.
Amidst the white
sores, feral pockets of soil sprout
and take root, begin
to grow fallow and whole,
as the massive fields where God lies
wax effulgent,
in their great depth of light.

III. Epilogue

What it comes down to
is the withering of your own dust
in the east, your own
selfish twilight,
the white birds
who lay themselves belly up on the ground to cover you,
who lay open their white innards before God’s eye
to clothe you.
Listen to this:
the grind of your own breath
in the wind;
the sound your ear makes when it meets
a word;
the cage of sleep as it descends
on your shoulders.


There is the sun, commonplace and unscrupulous,
a quivering famine. Now we are told
there is to be some new thing, without antecedent,
a candescent
mushroom shouldering its way in:
Noble jaw, fine bones.
turning out their white wreckage exhaling
sheet after sheet of iridescent cloud. The brown wound
sealed off in its nacreous shroud.
What is that sheen between your teeth?
It’s a lovely thing,
calcium carbonate,
a born sun that will never go out. It too
is the object of these penances.
Is it broken? We can make use of it.
Is it whole? We can make it infinite.

Nothing is wasted here;
nothing is so clean and so clear
as these amber coils—so close
they tell me the stars are made of it. Like any good zealot
I have my doubts. Already this week I have made six confessions.
Each delicate rupture
drops its rare opals to the floor.
With each I have lost something.

Now the moths are restive,
floating in the wings; they have mouths
like little coals. They are blank-eyed
to my transilience
though they tell me their hands are tied,
they can do nothing.

The earth is transfixed in this like an atom bomb:
lenticular, quick,
a pulse of light
across the eye,
its inward gaze.
The blunt thrust from the self.
The brilliant gasp
of a horizon wheeling from its own center, its dazzling ornaments.
What a rattling gavage,
all those fond adamants devouring so efficiently.
The most fearful part of any force
is its predictability. Ear detects the unspoken word,
eye the proximal light. Put
your faith in us;
we are skilled in these discernments, & we haven’t
let anyone down yet.

I used to dream that the sun would swell and swallow me whole,
a sullen surge of light. Sunday morning
like a cathedral ceiling. What
would follow: the trees giving back
their heavy arms, the black
drag in the lungs.
I would not mind its turgid heart, with as much right as mine to anything.
I would not mind the exhalation.
We are the calent sphere;
the aestive moth.
I am impenetrable like a huge mirror, my white heart
and irradiating as the sea—
swallowing everything,
exhaling the world
till all the soft places were calcified and edged in lime,
& all that remained were salt.

The Birdwatcher

It is you and the burning bush now.
Together you mark the soft removal of heaven,
the gradual unfolding of its tiers and tiers.

You let a psalm drop from your mouth
like an appointed gift—petals, white violets
the barren stones of peaches.

Everywhere there are poppies; Monet;
the garden is strewn with them—verdigris,
azalea, blue to stop your heart;

the rhododendrons smirk in the lawn like widows.
They nod and spin, sticking questions like pins
in the eye: Are you alone? Where is heaven?

There is nothing to do here but watch
the sky tipping its brimful of light
toward you, then away. Copper-tongued and unyielding.

Around you lie the tools of longing, clear
instruments. You too have been transparent,
an exercise in someone else’s will. Did it please you?

Your hand is under it all, wonderful beast:
casting at the seed, caging the suet,
bringing in the sun and her marvelous offspring;

you are fond of these repetitions.
Then it was pigeons:
stones in the dirt, stones in the heart.

Now at seventy it is finches,
hawks, the blessing of a cardinal, the blue
razor rasp of the last jay.

Then there are the crows like cataracts,
black smudges spilling on the lawn, transgressions.
There is nothing to fear: they are a promise.


It is over quickly, the white pith realized
and bitter;
as you would lead a horse to water and find the well is dry.
A trick little gods play, who have run out
of little heavens
to build. They
exhaust themselves on the carpet.
The earth? An illusion. And the sky?
It has turned its back on us. Though they’ll try
to tell you otherwise.

is the first and finest law of transformation.
Man dreams he is horse,
trampling earth under hoof;
or a hammock
slung like a tendon from two hip bones,
swinging its bare limbs
in the summer breeze,
dreaming of other moons to dance under,

dreaming how to while away the stillnesses of certain hours,
seasons of prurient interests
when there is nothing to do but fuck;
the lubricious stalk offering her white arms,
purpling her rich flowers
hanging and hanging her bearded fruit
carpopogon, the seeds crushed to cure maladies;
a tonic can be made from the roots
to induce flesh,
to poultice the rough soul from its circle.

There are other laws governing these bodies, converse
and Vedic. There are a handful of spells.
One is the distance traveled by water.
One is its tangent.
One is a city measured in paces,
a field of black ziggurats opening like poppies;
they will fruit and whither in the same hour.
We will never reach heaven this way.
We will be like two continents,
you and I, with a common sea.
Two lungs, made
for expiring.

Peter McConnell lives and writes in Allentown, PA, finding space for poems and yoga amidst full-time work at a small family business and as freelance contributor to a local paper. McConnell completed his BA in professional writing at Kutztown University of Pennsylvania, where he acted as a submissions editor on Shoofly Magazine. His work has previously appeared on

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