Collecting brown matter in lockdown as the climate warms

This was at the outset of adorable years
The earth loved us a little I remember.
—René Char, ‘Évadné’, translated by Mary Ann Caws

When the rain lets up, we drive around, pulling over here
and there to stuff linden leaves in black bags.
It’s not a competition to see who can fill theirs fastest, or who can file
their nails on the kerb the most fabulously, or whom the escaped

centipedes in the car will favour.
It’s just you and me driving in circles on the brink
of our given radius. A moon of compliance, at apogee. We’re
heating the cigarette lighter. Why are we heating the cigarette lighter?

For the same reason your skin is the colour of a leaf
I can’t imagine. The mycelial networks in the soil you call
to. Call empires. The glacial in your smell. The ships of camels I dream of
turning back before they run aground and become culls.

Creeks run around rocks, root boles. Can’t we speak around viruses?
The ’90s: Crocodile Mile—dish-soaped tarp on the lawn, the open
jaws bellied through at splashdown; leaded fuel; AU Falcons; Rage
not airing clips with lingerie-clad bodies, or death themes.

How afternoon hogged the ball then.
Driving around, we pass a girl standing across the street
from a house I bet is her own, from parents I bet are waiting for her
to slink into punishment’s earshot. We pass her again: the way she secrets

both hips behind a plane tree with dagger leaves and just peers, as if
ownership were lamplight yet to fill a room. As if the cigarette lighter
were a planet, ringed by sun, cooling in our hands. Let’s agree
we’ve been this girl to each other. Let’s decide whether to brand each other

is to caress. Glitter under our nails, we stuff plane leaves in black bags,
drive around. Around and around. Do you get the sense we’ve run
this script figureless times? Are centipedes wild lips? Maybe forgetting is
impossible after all, and this is the old springtime.



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Anders Villani

Anders Villani holds an MFA from the University of Michigan's Helen Zell Writers' Program, where he received the Delbanco Prize for poetry. His first book, Aril Wire, was released in 2018 by Five Islands Press. He lives in Melbourne.

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