At the Everest Base Camp; Song of the Martian Colonist; Why the Butterfly Nibbles on Roadkill

By Chris Marchello

At the Everest Basecamp

I’m going to climb it-
inhale its sharp, Himalayan sigh-
feel the furnace in my muscles
churn as the chill huddles in my body,
and tries to get warm.
All five of us will be lifting
ourselves just a little closer
to the seal of this jar
tomorrow.

The Earth turns, and the mountains
scrape against the cobalt sky, sparks
jetting up and becoming stars. All around
me, people murmur at how close they are-
pointing out the needlepoint patterns
the ancients knitted in their spare time.

In science class they take these strings
and dissolve them in acidic logic:
The stars in those constellations
aren’t close at all. It just looks like that
from our viewpoint. Those two freckles
of light will never know that they are
connected
by the knotted dreams of the dead”.

But I still dream of that cemetery
where we wanted each other
to be on the long, melancholy nights
of youth, kissing the lips
of smoky bourbon bottles,
sprawled atop a fossil congregation;
their limestone names sizzled
away, but their chorus dripping
from the tender, grassy dew.

I can hear you again: the last
notes plucked from a Spanish
guitar, sinking into my eardrum,
like soft fingers curling around
kerosene snow, swaddled
in damp and frigid flames.

But then I open my eyes,
and buttery sunlight
is bleeding through my tent.
As we prepare to begin our ascent,
I think: I am going
to climb Mount Everest,
and it is going to become real
underneath my boots. It will
not be like Orion’s belt
buckle or the single strand of a one-
hit wonder I can remember
the words to.

I can touch it.

I will touch it
like I couldn’t touch you.

Song of a Martian Colonist

What I miss most
is not the waves
of crystal salt-
water trying to clutch
powdered sugar shores,
or the silent communion
of ferns basking
in the misty, redwood
cathedrals of Yosemite:

It’s the fusion of cigarettes,
road apples, and French
fries- asphalt arteries buzzing
with bumper cars, the taste of mocha
tangled in my throat, the dusky
Sun lending
the same, ageless light
to the skyscrapers;
softening them
like pencil sketches,
warm and familiar.

Where is the scent of steamy curry
devouring me on the winter sidewalk?
The frenzied, shuffling contents
of a Broadway audience?
The clattering of the subway’s
bones in its’ tracheotic, traffic tomb?

Let me see you
in the peppery soil,
hear you in the pattering
of sand against the hull,
recognize you
in the heaving complaints
of my lungs.

Perhaps one day I will
step
out onto that endless,
rusting plain to change
a fuse, and look up
to find a familiar Sun
casting Earth
on this frigid,
foreign home.

Why the Butterfly Nibbles on Roadkill

You could say
it’s something in the soil-
the silty loam swallowing
all of life, and all of time;
as if time were a grassy
twine stuck
between the incisors
of some skeletal steer,
tossing and tumbling
in the ground’s soft jaws.

Yes, I think we are
remembered creatures,
composed of visceral memories-
tender thefts of shoots,
and murders of forgotten muscles,
our bodies sketched like tree rings-
suffused in the raw marrow
that drips from nature’s gluttonous
lips, our hearts soaking
and beginning to beat-
sunflowers bowing
to the pulsing stars
about the grand, rolling
gardens of life
thriving off the death
writhing inside us.

But is this mulch the only one
who hungers for me? No, I want
be tasted by this humming Delaware
river air, the lazy brushstroke
of a bespectacled girl,
by the hysteria of the aching
kettle, and the moon’s glazed
winter glare on our shimmering
nickel; hazy azul
at the bottom of the black fountain.

Let the mushrooms swarm.
Let the maggots sing.
But first,
let bittersweet reality
taste and remember

the fossilized me.

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