Once I heard a story of a woman
who carried snails under her breasts,
smuggling them to the Pure Land,
as if there were such a place,
as if any place were not. It was not the year
of the Great Flu—1918—an epidemic
my mother had been was curious about,
before she died, not quite a century late,
her lungs also drowned.
I am drinking gin alone by a window
splashed with mud. Its transmuted berries
in my throat, belly, bloodstream
spread like the strings of the super-cluster—
Laniakea, Hawaiian for ‘immense heaven.’
Some galaxies, the scientists say, flow
toward the mystery ‘super attractor,’
while in another space, a juniper bush
is giving itself up to become a part of me now.
I have heard that snails heave their hushed bodies
up the Buddha, becoming a cap of protection,
for they know they can do so little alone.
I’m glad my mother is not alive
to hear a man insist on a wall around America.
One great war was ending when that flu ignited,
killing more then the war had. It was a year
of peace & death no one expected.
Another great war already fermenting.
Through the splattered window, I see
only the silhouettes of birds: blue jays,
swallows. That half the people want
a wall saddens me. Our immense heaven,
the scientists say, sidles up against another:
two minds or foreheads resting
touching, yet impenetrable, so much
bone and blood keeping us apart.