For almost forty years I have been alive,
and the magnitude of my unknown grows
before me, its shape the shadow
of an occult creature occluded, eclipsed,
unmade by its elder. Certainty shows
itself little by little. It is something
I cannot recognize until it has dressed
in a faraway forest and passed close by
in its now-familiar costume. Even then,
twice as often it is another thing, horse
in a human’s fine charmeuse gown or golem
sewn of glassine envelopes still printed
with the names of herbs
they once contained. Of the strangers
who made poultices of powdered root
and masticated leaves, what can they know
of certainty, shambling shape stitched
with its own bone-thorn needle? Of available
materials it makes itself
into new animals, intruders to dreams
which speak as a symphony, wolfishly,
or like a dog
does after its years are nearly gone, rib-
cage showing its cradle’s shape. Still it claims
the dreamer’s voice for its own.
From Hunger Mountain Issue 22: Everyday Chimeras, which you can purchase here.
Art by Maggie Nowinski.
Miriam Bird Greenberg is the author of In the Volcano’s Mouth, which won the 2015 Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize, and All night in the new country. Recipient of fellowships from the NEA and the Poetry Foundation, she’s written about the nomads, hitchhikers, and hobos living on America’s margins, and is currently at work on a fieldwork-derived manuscript about economic migrants and asylum seekers of Hong Kong’s Chungking Mansions. A former Wallace Stegner Fellow, she’s the 2017 writer-in-residence at the National University of Singapore’s University Scholars Programme.
Miriam Bird Greenberg