Friday Apr 19

MoffettRosalie Rosalie Moffett's poems have appeared in magazines such as AGNIThe Believer, Field, Tin House, and in the anthology Gathered: Contemporary Quaker Poets. The winner of a 2012 "Discovery"/Boston Review prize, and a 2014 Ploughshares emerging writers' award, she is currently a Wallace Stegner fellow at Stanford University. She lives in Oakland, California.

Taxonomy of Divination

Platinum, Gold, Silver, Bronze, Catastrophe
—The Affordable Care Act menu

Because everything is caught
in winter's choke-hold, I hold a heat lamp

over the water dish, its ice
lit into precious metal, pocked

by the chickens who peck brainlessly
any shiny. Now, the marble,

put there to glint, to make the ugly,
just-shipped chicks

drink their water by accident
or die, is trapped at the bottom. Tired, I roll

my wrist, shine the light over
the slatted walls and resume

my alchemy. Later I might ask
who practices divination in the red

and blue shapes spun across the wall
by an ambulance, whose taxonomy is it

that spans the galactic distance
between a woman in the middle of no-

where falling, breaking
two ribs on the rim of a feed bucket—

that is to say, the ungovernable open
mouth of the future

—and bronze. But now,
I am busy directing

warmth, freeing up the water
kept in its ice.

Long Division

It's almost autumn. It's almost human
the way everything changes into Ghosts

-and-Candy from Back-to-School. Costume switch
of deciduous packaging. I organize: the ghoul room

is next to the trapper-keeper room,
which is next to the jelly sandals room, and so on.

I get uncomfortable with time—it moves
so angrily. When that happens, I sit in one place

while the pumpkins lean in a row
on parking lot straw bales or front steps,

their eye-triangles withering in. The young mothers
at the legs of the play structure

have the faintest of crow's feet, and they're pissed. They discuss
eye cream & how all the cousins are texting

pics of their junk. There is such melodrama
on TV. A war, actually,

that's been doing stuff for years
now, for the life of a fourth grader. No one

is saying we need to relearn long division
in the relevant context. I don't want to.

But remainders, repeating decimals, those little pieces
left over after everything else has been divided,

they march on and on. They mean something
different now, don't they?


The sea birds in their little black bodies
crook into the kinds of sky-apostrophes

that make a contraction—
or a possessive. One or the other. It seems important

to get that straight. The loss of a vowel strikes me
as particularly sad, though contraction is a kind of marriage,
a one-ing of flesh. In the mash-up the o disappears
from I cannot, makes you say it faster: I can't I can't.

The fortune from my cookie
says When one door closes another opens.

Loss and gain in one fell swoop—Don't be sad
is what that means, though I take it

as Just stop it, already, with the despair.
Back to birds, though—Some birds
mate for life someone said once, maybe
on a calendar, thinking That is so romantic.

(Photo of swans with their necks in a heart.)
But the Audubon Society only cares about appearances.

That's what the complementary binoculars are for: seeing
the surface of things. Geneticists know
that the lady-bird often sneaks off
to get better DNA.

All the emotion (Ah!) is in the vowels.
Everybody's wedding ring is just a little o.

The Family Lives on a Farm

The family is five: the girl, two boys, the mother
and the father who sinks inevitably
to the bottom of the list. Most mornings,
an indigo bunting can be seen somewhere
in the orchard. The family depends on the mother

to remark nice things such as this.
The family sorts fruit: perfect peaches
here, earwigged and bruised ones over here. They eat
the latter and sell the former. The family doesn't mind
the heat and has enough money.

When a hen dies and is put in a trap in the sun
to ripen and lure a raccoon, the family
will admit to feeling both for the chicken
and like her. The father, especially, sees
something wire-like around him. Time

whetting a stone, a metal glint. Always
the stones have been there, surfacing like whales
in the ground broken for the garden, the cellar. But that
always—sometimes it gets bad. His grip
on the forgetful landscape, loosening. And then

the father becomes like a small black hole
in a chair at the table. The family leans toward it, they can't
help it. The father is a clingstone, and each
of the children has a dark little peach pit
you might see if you split them open.