Rumpus Original Poetry: Three Poems by Marianne Boruch






because so much can be grafted though mostly
my own hip or back will do. If it’s really the body
and not metaphor, some expert in
cellular smarts could link-up those capillaries like
the guy on a chair at the basement power box knows
what’s what with wires
so the fridge will work again, and the stove,
and the lights when windows darken. The windows

did go dark. And I took my friend’s graft as gift: pictures
of the fire from her deck in Australia, sheet
after sheet of solid flaming red and black, sky
never like this to the south, her sickened pause for
photos to archive, document, as people say,
to round up the sum total, freeze, distance it for some point
called future: this nightmare really happened.

To frame and caption means the bloody bit might heal
in six weeks, a few years, a decade. A patient
opens her eyes post-surgery. Didn’t she just lie down
minutes ago after chatting with the doctor, his
last vacation to some island she never heard of?
She feigned interest. Now she’s here in this
cold room with parts of her missing.

I still imagine my friend sleeping. Trying to sleep. Fire
is a monster. No plot or plan, it never intends. So many creatures
in the bush or the city are shy and have no idea.
I don’t want to say which ones, even now. I want to hide them.
But it’s those who rarely make a sound that kept screaming.




what of endangered koalas sleeping through it all
in eucalyptus trees, in this Sanctuary
therefore sanctified.
                                   Koalas stink, oh, and in drought!

a New Zealander flat-out told me (can you trust a Kiwi
in Australia, an Aussie in New Zealand?)
Too little water up through roots into leaves which is

all they eat or drink. Worse, consider
the fires burning to ash one-metre-down microbes
that should offer all things to those koalas
straight out of earth via trees—
so the forester held forth.
                                             If indigenous

(he was not), he’d say Country
like it’s the beginning of time, like it’s a thing.

Even you—YOU—could come back as dirt,
the Indigenous Elder told me.  Even you could get lucky.

A most triumphant reverent re-up—dirt!—
all-giving link in the chain.

Koalas are cute, the Archangel said,
but their dreams scare me.

Merely human, I ran out of neck to bend back, tops of trees
lost in that eucalyptus grove.
Just once I spotted a koala high in—was it?—
a scribble gum.

Still, who was I to those giants?  Couldn’t gauge
how high that leafing out was.
To know something though, a furry
small something, his back
to me, his ass to me, to be sweetly exact.

To see other life living
                                       this life…


As for the scribble gum, its name
means larvae encrypting a feeding trail between
old bark and new, raised marks as
brilliant as Braille.
                               I mean to say, writes

the tiniest not-yet-moth,
                                        want out want out want out—




shrink the Archangel into a cockatoo for the diorama, not
to be nice really though yes, he’d been
lobbying forever. To teach him a lesson, I put him
next to the sweet hungry brush-tailed rock wallabies needing
the carrots and giant squash we cut
at the Reserve where rangers wanted to save them: threatened,
only some eighty left in the world.

A great world regardless, said the Archangel, since—fact!—
wow, I’ve finally become a cockatoo!  Tricked out eternal life
for this brief down-to-earth super noisy-unnatural
dazzling spin in the hay!

You mean sky.  You have to savor loft and air, I told him,
and seeds and berries, you have
to have empathy.  The cockatoo is a flock bird.

I was readjusting his distance from the ground like
certain poets write poems vis-a-vis
a glass case, how to suspend him with wire
from the drop ceiling I made to look
like a big storm coming.

Hard going. He flailed a bit, worried his spiffy, now official
sulfur crest might get wet in the wind-rattle.

But rain! That’s good news, the Archangel proclaimed
like a trumpet hates its mute, and ditches it—not the hate,
the mute. These fires, this drought,
dried-up rivers, all that. See, he said, I know things.
I feel for the place now. It’s bad here.

His wings too small for his body. His head
still enormous, wobbling.

This wobble’s my thinking, he said twice.
That’s my brilliance pouring out
though be careful, keep that to a minimum in what
you write.  Maybe not humble but make me—
how about pious?


Check your fourth-grade holy card collection,
that little wooden box you’ve kept for decades—

Remember I’m in there as guardian, my wings
over a couple of kids scared to death to cross a bridge
that never never was. But clues have been given.


Photograph of Marianne Boruch by Will Dunlap.

Marianne Boruch's ten books of poetry include The Anti-Grief (Copper Canyon, 2019), her prose—three essay collections, most recently The Little Death of Self (Michigan, 2017), and a memoir about hitchhiking in the early '70s, The Glimpse Traveler (Indiana, 2011). Among her honors are a Kingsley-Tufts Poetry Award and fellowships/residencies from the Guggenheim Foundation, the NEA, the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center and two national parks (Denali and Isle Royale). Her work has appeared in the New Yorker, The Nation, Field, American Poetry Review, POETRY, The New England Review, Field, New York Review of Books, London Review of Books, Kenyon Review, Volt, and elsewhere. On a 2019 Senior Research Fulbright in Australia, she observed that country's astonishing wildlife to write Dark Bestiary, forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press this October. Going rogue and emeritus in 2018 from Purdue University, Boruch continues to teach in the Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. More from this author →