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Photo by Jeff Sirkin



The first question went like this:

The sound of water

Falling on a parchment of dirt

Briefly spells a message meant to be understood bodily.

No harm in resting in a quilt of blood,

If that blood be your own.

Light-centuries away, stars are climaxing (the way things go)

And the daffodils, deaf as a stone,

Nod their heads in affirmation,

Send shoots of electricity clamoring through space.

A giant toad lurks over the known universe,

Disproving our theories again and again.

So much to see. So much to see see see.

I wasn’t even lonely

Until you were born.


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*** ** ***



In a city of passwords. This is my time

To not be a ghost. I intend also

To be made of letters and numbers,

Hence my presence here

On the sidewalk, a wriggling ontology

With a new shade of lip gloss.

Just as I discover my sultry collection of atoms

A brief spectrum of colors

Approaches my periphery. The magnetic field

Of passers-by disrupts the afternoon,

Which moves through my brain like water.

In the air around us, soft beginnings

Hatch like feathered eggs,

Units of sense or experience: a wet leaf

Pressed onto the cheek,

A ream of spiderwebs dangling from the sky.

We collect them in a frenzied haze,

Every cosmic blossom

Of light and sound unfolding in our ears.


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*** ** ***



A climate-controlled temple burns

At one end of the universe.

Another universe floats by undetected.

You wade through the shallows, lonely for truth.

Silver fish throw themselves against the escarpment,

Their broken bodies returning to the encroaching black.

A crowd walks right into the omen.

It masturbates shells.

In its pale pilled nightshirt, the Etcetera presses a button

To rewind time back to the very beginning.

It fell asleep and missed its favorite part.

A blue orgasm spatters across the screen.

A small child wakes up in the dark.

Do we hold our consciousnesses like balloons,

Tethered to our wrists?

What else is kept prisoner?


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*** ** ***



Wonder what happens when you throw a glass bottle

Filled with the pupae of angels

Over the side of a red cliff?

Ever been downstream from the Everything

As it solemnly micturates

The meaning of life into the water?

Hash-gray rocks turn over boredly.

The fronds stay where they are.

My opal-colored fear builds

A house on the shore while Everything’s

Mother slowly shreds infinite potatoes by the sink.

Ever feel like you’re asleep under the seat of an arbiter

Who keeps shifting side to side as the courtroom fills

With the green, discarded heads of sea slugs?

One day, leaving the house becomes a territory

That is no longer yours.

On a nearby shipwreck,

The abalone sweeps out its apertures,

Installs recessed lighting.

An android rushes by

Wielding a shopping list, idly calculating

The distance to the edgemost star.

Ready to take the turn into non-remembering?

Alive with the discordant remnants of tongues?


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*** ** ***



I am getting older; just watch me

As I drive my little car off the road into a bramble;

The bramble is distinguished; it is not

Its fault I am bleeding into its arms; to save time

I turn inside out; I mistake my genitals for a man’s;

I parade around with a tarp collecting spacecraft;

I try to have sex with a flower

And get interrupted; a hawk comes to rescue me;

It buries me among its eggs; I try to remain

Very small; the ghosts are in the parlor playing cards;

This makes me nervous; my skin shaped like a basketball;

Spiders walk all over my circumference;

I am a witch-man, an oo-man; hawks and spiders

Protect me from man-man; I wake up in a sunflower;

The leaves smell like Time; my consciousness

Forms a sphere the size of a shrub

Around my head; its brambles grab onto the air;

It messes up some electrons; one of them yells “FUCK!”

And I have to start my story over;

I am getting older; just watch me


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*** ** ***



By now, even the clouds are mutating.

They go berserk

Even at night.

In front of the moon,

Behind the moon

There are clouds.

It was an accident.

It was just one possibility

Of infinite outcomes.

Some day I will float

5 inches above my body

Just like a cloud.

Clouds are the spirits of oceans

Ripe with information

About the past.

They take off their slippers

Before they enter the house.

They lift the train of a long dream.


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*** ** ***



I am going to ask you a few questions.

I do not want you to become upset.

I know it is a sensitive topic for you, questions.

You remember a time when someone asked you

A question about Belonging

And then immediately transmogrified into a pyramid

Of snails. This kind of trauma lingers.

Rather than asking you a question, I am going to

Describe for you a sentence. The sentence

Has a beginning, middle, end.

The basic biology and theology of a centipede.

When I feed the sentence at night

Through my long, exclamation mark nipples

It speaks one of seventy languages.

At the end of its life, the sentence walks sideways

Into a plague and is forever stript

From the annals, and instead hangs

Like a Chihuly chandelier

Over the living room of our entire lives.


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*** ** ***



There is a hole in the glow.

The people gather around it, looking afraid.

Is it warm in there?

Do they practice psychiatry?

Soon, measures are taken.

They rope off the glow.

The people are too close to the hole.

Motives are questioned.

An allegory is written about the hole

So parents don’t have to mention it directly

When warning their children about the hole.

Someone starts throwing pennies in it

For luck, and then suddenly

The people are throwing all kinds of things

Into the hole: sweaters, candelabras,

Vast sums of money.

Nothing ever comes back from the hole.

The people lose their superstitions.

They forget about the hole,

Which they once feared and revered.

Soon they start throwing trash

Into the hole, champagne bottles,

Dead bodies. A century or two pass

And the hole starts to fill up.

The people start noticing the hole

Again. Where did it come from?

Does it have a podcast?

An avalanche of refuse and corpses

Pours into the glow.

Who could have done this!

What happens to my nice slippers!


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*** ** ***



At first, I am asleep. Then dreams crawl in

Like white spiders on tall legs.

I enter a field of elk.

We all agree that we have bodies.

A brown, hieroglyphed stone

Is of some importance.

I have never seen my dead father here.

It has become clear that I am an elk,

Albeit of human form,


In the center of our collective awareness,

There is a hedgehog on its back

Squirming ineffectually. We watch.

It is today’s news.


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*** ** ***



Do not threaten me with bears.

I can barely detect my own eyeball.

I keep my head fastened securely

To my throat so the sun does not kill me

With its beams, hurling themselves through

Space like angry swans.

Do not make this about you.

There were no “first bears.” They were all

Birthed from the abstraction of a single zoo.

Don’t say with a look of hopefulness:

“There are still bears that walk the earth.”

There were never any bears, and don’t even begin to think

There was ever a zoo.


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Julie Howd
is the author of Threshold (2020), winner of the Host Publications Chapbook Prize, and Talking from the Knees Up (dancing girl press, 2018). Her work can be found in the I Scream Social Anthology, Deluge, The Spectacle, Sixth Finch, and elsewhere. She lives in Amherst, MA.



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