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This Earth

August 22, 2016


This is Frank Tota’s first speculative publication. By day, he writes crime fiction and lives with his wife and two children in central Maine, about seven miles from Stephen King. He is a graduate of Harvard University and (very recently) the Stonecoast MFA Program in Creative Writing.

Birch bark catches the sinking autumn light, the milky skin
Of some imaginary virgin: mites, commensals, worms
Swimming in papery husks and plated devils in tenements,
Other trees burgeoning in the surgical angle of the street,
In the swimming masses of her hair: this is her beauty.

I wrap a starving child in phosphorescent fabric,
A sturdy canvas that holds water, stolen from the palace
When I wandered its halls, the unwelcome guest that wept
When the famine settled in, on a terrace lost in rain.

Fungus angles bloom in forests that witness the passing
Of egg-stealers and old men, whose tributaries mingle
With those of the galaxies, grown thick with plums and limes.

Women in a house of many rooms undress, already
In various shades of evening, withdraw to pale solitudes,
Branches hanging heavy with moss, and frogs singing
A stainless song, green and bright at the Perseids.

Bodies littered with copper tangles and scales fill the lianas,
The cathedral where they dance and slap tall drums, shed
White gowns to the wet sand for this funereal solstice, these
Shy avatars that keep one eye on the white birds, heavy
On the water, blue outside the reef, ocean with no edge.

When I remember this earth, there is no image, no rest,
No consumption by fire or dust, only blossoming
Globes, the infinite sprawl of provinces, an endless vessel
Of fresh water, and multitudes of children who lift soft lamps:

This is its beauty: green souls ascending on insect wings
To voyage beyond all water, beyond this, or any, sun.

© Frank Tota

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