delicate as a paper cut,
in your groin.
The komboskini I gifted you,
around your wrist. Baba, keep it, I said.
We open your heartlike a human mouth,
and feed in a plastic tube
for the movement of blood,
and the sake of two selfish daughters.
When finished, the blood flows
quickly, like the years that we
spent, still spend,
in a country far away from you.
In that morning before her husband
woke and hitched the horse, she discovered bugs
had crawled under the blanket in the night.
They clung like a second skin to her bare legs.
They were a tattoo crawling on her back.
They sheathed her arms like gauntlets.
She pinched one between her thumbnails
and it burst the red of river rock—
and though the dawn was sharp with dew
and the fire had all but died, and though
the baby still snuffled and burred in sleep,
she left the wagon and stood,
shifted in insects, against the red rising sun.
Against the red sun she was a city
working at her own making; her skin
commuted and flowed like water. She stood
against the rising sun and plunged
her hand into the covering of bugs.
They parted like lips to let her pass.
Plucking at her own skin – thin,
translucent – she peeled it away
like shucking the husks from corn, till her skin
gave way to her flesh and her flesh
stepped aside for her bones.
Her bones she buried in the unmappable
prairie, cryptic, unmarked,
and the prairie gave her back
a body of bugs.
She wore it the rest of her life.
On nights her husband lay beside her,
they tingled and swarmed to his touch,
became a nest of desire. When he hit her,
tiny mouths bit and scratched at his fists.
Later, her children were born with insect
hearts; they dispersed and gathered like a colony.
The day she died, her body
scattered. The bed, rippling in the lamplight,
smelled of her life: of leaf mould and of hunger.
I come back to Greece
burn of bright beach flayed open
that essential sea
not wine dark but grape blue
the ocean an open blue mouth
gulping at my feet on the beach
flickering light and susurrus of olive leaves overhead
the cliffs around are bare, stripped of plant
from the rough waves smashing
cicadas crying in the heat
my mother told me fingerprints are created by the waves
of amniotic fluid
I think I was formed here
As her bare feet attempted the shores
I pluck a grape from a vine
Throw it into the sea, unburst.