BY BRANDON AMICO
Each box thrums like a buried heart, gives
as the heart gives. Until collapse. Working
the memory of venom from my hands, medallions
of hello, Spring’s down payment. Sun ekes out
mist after morning’s slap of rain, the hive
rising to a pitch of almost, of fury,
the wait, atoms heated and trying to disperse.
I am dressed as an ineffectual god—colors that claim
no fervor from them, nor invoke the fur of predator.
I am pleased, unnoticed while working.
Only when they’re alarmed, if I forget
the smoker, will the stingers dig me. I fight
the suspicion they would steal from me—
not mosquitoes with their derrick forms.
My reflex: swat, and only then consider
the ripples rolling outward from under my palm:
fish tip out of the boiling oceans and drop
into the sky, tugged by the moon’s thin line; Nor’easters
stalk the autumn coast, drunk through startled-bare
forest. I savor the thought’s little fat on my tongue; I’ve lost
three summers of weight around the waistline
and I’m not sure I’ll get the hang of this. I don’t know why
we exist but I know whose hands these are, who I am,
I know everything they touch. In two days I will open
the hives to find them bare, not even a corpse. Teeth
picked clean. I see rivers boil under the flowers they ferry,
bees plunging toward those petals to drown in the acid.
And how could they be saved? Today I do nothing
but watch them ease back into the rainless sky, un-disappeared,
the mass of them hovering like an empty thought bubble,
or at least, empty of words known to me. Each a curled
letter, each its own striped flag.
how to be on fire
BY BRANDON AMICO
: Start with sediment. Plant a tree
in your backyard, wait forty summers
or more, two generations for the sapling
to grow and flesh and buckle.
Then you’ve got your wood. Here,
you run out of matches. Here, the rain
streaks in dark gashes against pale-faced
Tuesday, subway stations inundate, flood
as if to pad a thrashed knee, hobbling
your only route to the store.
In a city of millions there’s no way
you’ve never passed a hit man
on the street, right? Just yesterday
you saw the bald man’s dull rag
wrapping his fists, a red shadow
just below his navel. His smile,
a knowing one, self-aware but not
embarrassed. He hustled past you,
a wind-up toy speeding along
for now, not noticing how life-drunk,
how moth and staggered the walk
you’ve kept up for years.
Ask the full-chambered sun
to come back, spin light down
through the storefront with its giant
flickering M, illuminate the golden
fibers of the rope coiled on the shelf
like a snake first glanced at noon, shining
and dozing, wrapped around some grass,
its eggs, its pitted venom.
Your wallet sprung open like a car’s
steel ashtray, overflowing. Inside every
neon sign a gas is trying to expend
its bright, inside every cradle
of ink you see your apple tree
hung with burgeoning fruit
swollen and desirous for the earth.
There is no pit in the pomegranate
large enough to harbor rest—
search anyway, your skin
licking the mashed juices,
maddening shreds of the sun’s
one language. Outside this blue
jawbreaker of a planet is cold
nothing and the Lord; at the core
of each poison apple, a seed.
The potential for heat.