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Amber Edmondson

The Infinite Hours

It helps if you imagine a kaleidoscope. Or have a passing familiarity with binary code. That would be best. Those pure, elegant ones and zeros. If you don't know binary, imagine instead a mad scientist. He knows binary so we don't have to. Imagine him. Imagine his wild hair, his glasses like two comical magnifying lenses held up to his eyes, the white lab coat he reserves for formal occasions but he has gotten tired of waiting. Imagine him. Imagine him weeping at all of the world reduced down to the simple poetry of numbers. He will be delighted to have guests and eager to explain it all to you, how life, everything, it's all made up of that raw, skeletal, elementary information and, at the end, how it's all swallowed into the mouth of a black hole, propelled to the core where it is crushed!—here, imagine he will clap his wide palms together for illustration—crushed and churned outward, spread like hand prints on the windows of a school bus, barely a particle thick, this spinning spectacle of everything that every was, rotating around the outside, forever and slowly, a flashing cinema, a slide show. You, by the river bank, the foot bridge, your broken heart, maybe your single triumph, if such a thing exists in such a world, such a big, entropic world. And imagine the scientist again and how he will say, And isn't it so lovely now, how it's all come down to this? Like we've always known: at the end, it all looks like a pile of bones.

Things They Don't Tell You about Snakes

We learn to hiss in unison. We learn to hiss in unison before we learn to speak. Our line of sight is limited but we learn to rear back, learn to strike. Our hiss begins as a warning: We mean no harm except when we do.

It's true. We hammer our own scales. Small plates made of scrap metal collected from dust bins, landfills, roadside wreckage.

We teach the young, tell them, Look at my mouth, see my tongue tucked into the intimate hollow behind my teeth? Now press your breathe forward.

I can't speak about cold blood or hot blood or the difference that might make. While blood is in your veins, it is just blood.

I don't care what the dictionary says. The word is silibant.

In courtship we invite prospective mates to lie on flat, black rocks, sun-scorched. Courtship flows directly into mating, like breath, one swallowing the tail of the other.

No, more pressure. Let it build. Don't be afraid to spit.

Our habitats are wide-ranging, varied. We are everywhere: sand dunes, underwater, even apple orchards, if the conditions are right.

You've got the right sound, but try to make me feel something.

We do not hide in the grass to trick you. Do you know what the word hide means? Sometimes, you can trust the dictionary.

Yes, that. Just like that.

Palms Against

I want a good
sex dream,
steamy windows,
fire-escape fooling-around.
I'm sick
of these dreams like
love notes slipped
into my pocket,
dreams where
my palms are sweaty
from nerves
not exertion.
The body
to the wings.

I fall in love
with healers and agitators,
first one,
and then the other,
and then cyclically.

I keep
how we kissed
behind the school,
because what else
should friends do
with mouths?
I didn't know
to put my hands
until, finally, I
let my palms
rest against
rough brick, cool
mortar, kept
my eyes closed,
cut class. Afterward,
smelled like
cheap peach
origin story.

In dreams,
I try to walk
in a straight line
but I keep
tripping over
these derby girls.

In dreams, I want.
In dreams, I want to curl
into the corner of your mouth
like a grain
of salt, sharp
and white,
from beneath Detroit,
another city
hollowed out.
They load us
onto haul trucks,
but we used to be

In dreams,
I fall
in love with you
and all.

Do you know
how I've built you
from this pile
of tired tropes
and spare parts,
how I gave you
a tragic backstory,
but don't let it change
the way you love me,
which is ravenously.
Do you know I've drafted
drunk confessions,
cafe mix-ups,
ways we could end up
in the snow together.
Hey, take off
those wet clothes.
We need to get

The body
buys peaches
by the bushel.

He Suggests Ritual Sacrifice to Appease the Gods in Which, He Believes, the Mayans Believed

He finds a gentle irony in that.
Still, on the night he believes
the world will end, they find it
most tender to list what they loved
about this life, placing each thing
upon the unseen altar.

She says, the black rocks
at the shore, the green ends
of garlic, her uncle's garage,
the smell of motor oil, filed metal,

finding each thing as fragile
as artifacts, as bone.

His moonlit face level with hers,
he tells her nothing mattered.
She knows he means the ugly things,
the times they hurt each other.
He means that the thing
to destroy them will live somewhere
outside their hearts.

She wants to hold his face
like a child's face, wants
to hold her mouth in an honest line
when she says, "Yes."

Instead, she invites the cat
onto the bed, strokes its back,
tiny sparks flung into the dark corners,
hoping when they wake tomorrow,
they are not disappointed
to find they are still


In copper country peat bogs,
harvesters unearth a small flock.
Perfectly preserved, each
opalescent feather in place,
sturdy keratin outgrowths,
radiant against the forest
tones of leaf, mud, stone.

Sunlight catching edges:
old-growth hardwood on fire.

At night, the men learn
the birds still luminesce,
fragile and ghostly,
the way we understand
things under the ocean to look,
where light is so scarce,
they must produce their own.

The Historian's Apprentice Shares a Secret

The Historian imagines a tomb,
a kind of ark beneath the iron
where each bird returns to die.

Each mystery laid in tidy piles
of bones and beaks and feathers
and nests, what is written removed
from what is true.

He wants to find this cave one day,
the last day, by the lake, or within
the tangled roots of upturned trees.
He wants to find it and lie on the ground,

wants to fold his bones into the shape
of bird bones, to caress his face
with their feathers, waiting for Mother
to return, her warmth resisting this Northern breeze.

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