One hundred and twenty-five thousand years ago

a fire lights up their faces. 
Food is passed, from hand to hand 
sinew and fiber unbound by heat.
In the slippage of twilight, bodies encircling flame 
are all that hold in place night’s abyssal eye.

11pm, I drift into the self-check-out line, with a basket full of produce 
half-bound for rot, a stack of meals-for-one.
eye ache fluorescent, white tile, card-reader-scream me into madness,
I am panic peaking in the parking lot, my sick meets the warm breath of pavement.

2 billion years ago, the first prokaryotes
recombine, at random. Romance, primordial.
The chance kiss of cells, boundaries dissolve for
that operatic drift of gene.
their entanglement helical, aimless.

My eyes swim in wine and he talks 
for the second hour in a row without asking me a question. 
I make a mountain of paper on my napkin.
The bottle’s label gone, I turn violent on the skin
around my nailbeds, I am removing myself
swallow by swallow, cell by cell. 

The year I stopped noticing what time he came home,
my face was a sea of text. My throat, filled with footnotes.
I moved through the world in an armor of word and category. 
Sociality reduced; evolutionary. 
I rendered love molecular
prayed for a paradigm, sublime 
and measurable. Schema-starved and seeking, every datum
docking the tongues of poets. 

Back home, my father is having a heart attack, and 
I am walking through a beautiful town I despise.
Snow is falling on the cemetery, 
the one between the Walmart and the fallow rapeseed field. 

I am pondering why we need each other,
the bodies bound by flame. I just need something 
synthesized, neurological, plotted on a line.
Not that which is felt in the body, repelling terminology.
Not that which I cannot hypothesize, cannot predict.  

Avery Lane

3 Questions for Avery

What was your process for creating this work?

 All three of these particular poems were written for assignments given in a Tucson Writer's Studio workshop, in which we were to emulate a specific craft technique. Fortunately, that allowed me to get some good critical feedback during the editing process. Other than adhering to the constraints of the assignments, my writing process typically looks something like: 1) choose an idea, or seed of an idea based on things I've been thinking about lately; 2) free write prose to generate the raw material of the poem (what I like to call "poetry kindling"); 3) organize the prose mess into a form that makes sense given the content and mood of the poem; 4) share and edit!

What is the significance of the form/genre(s) you chose for this work?

The form/genre chosen for these pieces attempts to match or balance the content and mood of the poem. For example, "Dear you, in March" was based on a journal entry I had written the previous year, which had taken on a new significance given the global events that followed; given the themes of disorientation and nostalgia present in the poem, I felt that a sort of rambling prose was most appropriate. The other two poems involve rather heavy material, which seemed to demand a more restrained form to balance the melancholy and lyricism. 

What is the significance of this work to you?

The significance of these pieces for me is simply the gratitude I feel that we have the ability to draw from both individual experience and imagination to create little worlds of our own (poems!), and explore areas such as mental health, loneliness, nostalgia, and life's absurdity in a way that, hopefully, resonates with others. Whether this is done through writing or art or music, I think it is a pretty cool thing about being human.

Avery Lane is a poet from Tucson, AZ. She has an MA in Anthropology from Washington State University. She is currently editing a collection of poems written while thru-hiking the Arizona Trail.    

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