National Poetry Month Day 4: Kenzie Allen





Convergent Evolution

In a city of seven hills,
you told me once, there is no fate

kismet: a coincidence
we mistake for grand design.

Could they be one and the same,
I asked, knowing I was reaching

for something
I didn’t understand.

Say we’re the same species,
but I never know what to believe

faced with the distance; alienation
more familiar to my skeptic’s mind.

We’re able to mate; and do.
But what can I make of your body

so unknowable to me, this anatomy
I can’t capture, no matter how

my hands seek out the edges of you
to make reminders I could map—

a changing form, a grand design—
to learn your next bright incarnation.

Must there be rain in this poem
to approximate my longing?

Then let there be rain. A greater flood.
Let us grow into creatures which survive it.

There’s a word for nature’s desire
to evolve a crab: carcinization;

as though his shape is best desired,
a sterling vision in this habitat,

the clay supple and sumptuous and easy
in the hands that make us whole,

and there are many crab-like shapes called crabs,
who aren’t, in fact, true crabs at all.

We run out of names for the remnants.
We call them by their carapace.

I scuttle toward your chitin’d frame, similarly clawed,
yet drag along my chosen shell;

protection, refuge, home.
What can I make of us,

without leaving my shelter behind?
Unless you were the nacre’d cove

all along, a foolproof cavern
fitted to my shoulder blades

with room enough to bend—
to huddle, coil, retreat—to shift

as the silver ring we sized and re-sized
for weeks, once you asked for my name

beside a river which was an ocean
which was my winding, blessed road,

until it slipped past the knuckle but twisted
round the phalange, loose enough to turn inward—

and we call that as good a match as any.
I wear that band, still.

Maybe you are not the catalyst
edged as my own edges, warded key in lock,

no meniscus of exactitude where air meets water,
but a grotto I grow into, a grove I learn

to inhabit. If you are the burrow, not the burial,
let this be the last shell I’d ever need.

In sand, and sea, and willowed grasses,
I would find my way to you.



Author photo courtesy of author

Kenzie Allen is a Haudenosaunee poet and multimodal artist; she is a descendant of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin. Kenzie is the recipient of a 92 NY Discovery Prize, the James Welch Prize for Indigenous Poets, the 49th Parallel Award for Poetry, and broadside prizes from Littoral Press and Sundress Publications. An Indigenous Nations Poets (In-Na-Po) fellow and finalist for the National Poetry Series, her work can be found in Poetry, Boston Review, Narrative,, The Paris Review’s The Daily, Best New Poets, and other venues. Born in West Texas, she currently lives in Toronto. More from this author →