Thursday, January 14, 2010

Monkey and Poetry Convergence: "Half-Ourselves & Half-Not" by Colin Cheney

While catching up on my back issues of Poetry today I came across "Half-Ourselves & Half-Not" by Colin Cheney in the September 2009 issue. It's a really good poem and it includes primates. YES!
Half-Ourselves & Half-Not

If you sleep the night inside someone, her cells,
saltwater-stained, fuse with yours like the blood of twins.

Apes in Mauritania grow stronger, Galileo tells us,
influenced by the sphere of angels.

Here, then—thumbnail sketches
for zoning changes along the riparian bank

of the species boundary, for a chimera.
Like fiber optics, human nerves

lay along glassy bone & spinal veins of a fetal mouse
that will be drowned before ever waking.

A hen’s brain replaces a quail’s—nodding, cooing,
not understanding the change. Less human, less nature.

Less solace in these songs half-ourselves
& half-not. Did I wake you, my singing?

Here, the sphere of angels & here the sphere of sea.
Darwin, writing in his garden, remembers the sea

like some sleep he feared he’d never wake from.
If all men were dead then monkeys make men,

he noted for himself, &, almost as an aside—Men makes angels.
If my nerves were fed to an osprey, a finch,

could she still take wing? Rain
behind the bedroom blinds, I will wake, won’t I,

to your cells replacing mine, this cape lionness
liver, aorta of a garter snake, &, from a goat twisted

with an orb spider, milk boiled down to silk, gossamer
the structure of Bethlehem steel?

(Colin Cheney, from the September 2009 issue of Poetry.)

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