Of Names to Disguise the Dead
For almost forty years I have been alive,
and the magnitude of my unknown grows
before me, its shape the shadowof an occult creature occluded, eclipsed,
unmade by its elder. Certainty showsitself little by little. It is something
I cannot recognize until it has dressed
in a faraway forest and passed close byin its now-familiar costume. Even then,
twice as often it is another thing, horsein a human’s fine charmeuse gown or golem
sewn of glassine envelopes still printed
with the names of herbsthey once contained. Of the strangers
who made poultices of powdered rootand masticated leaves, what can they know
of certainty, shambling shape stitched
with its own bone-thorn needle? Of availablematerials it makes itself
into new animals, intruders to dreamswhich speak as a symphony, wolfishly,
or like a dogdoes after its years are nearly gone, rib-
cage showing its cradle’s shape. Still it claims
the dreamer’s voice for its own.
Copyright © 2018 by Miriam Bird Greenberg
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission
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.
Hunger Mountain is a print journal of the arts. We publish fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction, visual art, young adult and children’s writing, and literary miscellany. Our print issue comes out annually in the spring.
Ephemeral Artery is Hunger Mountain’s online literary companion, edited by the graduate students in the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program in Writing & Publishing. Ephemeral Artery publishes select content from Hunger Mountain print issues, as well as original book reviews, interviews, craft essays, and a selection of literary ephemera (Etc.).
Our mission is to cultivate engagement with and conversation about the arts by publishing high-quality, innovative literary and visual art by both established and emerging artists, and by offering opportunities for interactivity and discourse.
Past contributors include Pinckney Benedict, Ron Carlson, Hayden Carruth, Kwame Dawes, Matthew Dickman, Mark Doty, Rita Dove, Terrance Hayes, Alice Hoffman, Pam Houston, Maxine Kumin, Dorianne Laux, Bret Lott, Michael Martone, Naomi Shihab Nye, Tomaž Šalamun, Charles Simic, James Tate, Jean Valentine, and too many splendid writers to name here. We love to publish never-before-published authors as well, and often find pieces we love in our unsolicited submissions.