the rivers of it, abridged

New York City skyline at night




Andrea Porter

Anobium Punctatum

(Common Furniture Beetle)

Only found when things were moved,
a bookcase, a corner cabinet shifted
to leave the skirting boards naked.

Pinprick holes dappled the gloss,
a film of fine sawdust on the floor
that was never spotted before, lost

in the carpet pile, the forest of legs
that held up all the familiar pieces
we knocked into, skirted or ignored.

Generations of beetle, fat larva, grubs
riddled those things that had their backs
to the wall, that stayed in their place.

The worst damage is caused by adults
boring their way out to mate, escaping
the tight grain, before laying their eggs

in the cupboard with acanthus leaves,
the dresser crammed with blue china,
the drawers full of family snapshots.



(In Walesby Churchyard, Lincolnshire)

Here, under the foam of cow parsley,
my great-grandmother bones the soil,
her ribcage spare as a shipwrecked hulk.
Nine children, the last has his paper skull
anchored to her sternum in case he drifts.
Family navigated this path on the Sabbath,
the climb up to god was their old insurance
against death, sheep tic, the price of wool.

Eight children towed in the wake of a box.
How hard is it to dig a grave in frozen soil?
The thud of cold clay on hollow wood
played out forty and a threadbare womb.
The headstones here strain with the wind,
the hilltop sailing out of the clutch of land.



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