About Muscle by Marylen Grigas*

FCA-64-sea-squirt-Clavelina-sp.

If there’s no need for movement, then no need for a brain, I’ve learned, 

a fact demonstrated by the sea squirt, a small creature that swims

freely in its youth until it settles on a rock. Then it devours its own brain. 

And spinal cord. It simply doesn’t require them any longer. 

(God, don’t let me settle.) Need for movement leads to need for muscle. 

The brain evolves in order to plan and execute reaching, grasping, 

turning, according to the expert on Charlie Rose, which I watch

on my iPad while walking on the treadmill to rebuild my strength. 

Plenty of species thrive without brains, he says. It could be different. 

on another planet, I suppose, but here evolution of the brain is about muscle. 

Just ask Arnold Schwarzenegger or an evolutionary biologist. 

Yet the brainless sea squirt still gets upset, still squirts. 

Maybe it’s innate, like a horse’s hide shuddering to dislodge a fly. 

Maybe that’s why I started moving and arranging boulders last fall. 

I thought I was making a terrace. But afterward it looked more like a grave. 

 

*Published in the September 1, 2014 issue of The New Yorker

Bruise by Michael Ondaatje*

Image

In the medieval darkness of the Holland Tunnel

with luminous green paint, on whitewashed walls

of the Madrid zoo, in his thick fingered handwriting

onto dust at the dry Casablanca aquarium

 

When last I held you in my arms

my love, the West African Black

Rhinoceros was still magnificent 

and still alive…”

 

What have you been doing to Paul Vermeersch?

He has searched for you encyclopedically

in Albacete, in Zagora, in those cities

whose names have changed,

till the maps he relies on wear out.

In what disguise did you leave him?

So he will not recognize

your gait anymore,

or your stare out from a diorama.

 

Hunt and Torment. Call by no Response.

In the end words of love reveal

just yourself. Not why

or the wished-for thing. Only the Spanish

consider his plea, only the drivers

deep in a tunnel into New York

nod wisely, agree with him.

But it is the black rhino whose loss they mourn,

not the person he once held in his arms

 

When it is over, it is over,

they say in the passing dark.

There are no longer great nostrils

to scent out the source of torment.

It is a generation since our love,

to justify anger, had a horn, a tusk.

 

*Originally published in the January, 13 2014 issue of The New Yorker.