Our gills grew over.
It was cryptic how it happened. So did theirs.
Something can fly its whole life then land forever.
We had grown the right kind of thumbs
but that was just another accident.
Other things ran up the trees with what became
the wing. Molecules have no plan
but somehow effort works without trying.
We perfect beams. Precisely groove
the interiors of alloy tubes.
Altimeters become an emissary.
Because the word miracle has nothing to teach us
we think it’s somehow wiser
than either the toggle or the beak.
Machines preen. Maps draw.
We get so much wrong but that’s also beautiful.
Over the Boneyard, vultures drift like endings.
Beyond the nacelle, what has made the nacelle
and what it gives, etymology
of California, rare Sierra snow.
Because the rivets are plumb, the leading edge is smooth
enough for plant-based cups of cabernet to ask : Would you
don your mask before helping others?
The lake loves lightning, is ancient deep. 1,000
degrees from here, streamers streak some desert air, slinky
cirrus viscera trailing chips and code : the birds at Ivanpah :
and, east, sunburnt arms and center-pivot circles
dot-dash what Lindbergh said : Sometimes
the world from above seems
too beautiful, too wonderful, too distant
for human eyes to see, like a vision at the end
of life forming a bridge to death.
Between the mirrors and focus,
between myth and ignition, between
the aisles, slender hands in latex are taking
what you’d leave behind. Just because it’s gone
doesn’t mean they weren’t right.
The Collected Works of Sunday Afternoon
That antique intelligence. Oh yes,
black hems and shoulder blades : the clouds
are moving skillfully
themselves over and their shadows on
that ridge. Or prick or swab
might calm you down.
For what? For what?
You’ve been reading Aniara on a dry mountain.
To proffer topography, veriditas, allusion? You would
rather she see the swale creaturely :
pulling the book from your hands.
Christopher Cokinos is the author of three books of literary nonfiction, including most recently the collection Bodies, of the Holocene (Truman). He is co-editor of the forthcoming anthology The Sonoran Desert: A Literary Field Guide (University of Arizona Press). He has work recent or forthcoming in Orion, Borderlands, The Writer’s Chronicle, Ecotone and TYPO. He directs the creative writing program at the University of Arizona, where he is also affiliated faculty with the Institute of the Environment.