Cover 14

Agatha Remembers Her Childhood

Alexis Orgera

One feels it in one’s feet, the tao
of root-delay, a dead catfish stripped & sun-

dried makes a crucifix
of its spine—every looking

is its own answer, which sounds
(biblically) like wailing. In a room

the size of a dam’s chest the sand-
dollar incubates its doves,

cracked open its heart grieves
a savior of white birds. I keep going

back to my childhood where something
like a monster lives in me, hidden

so expertly I can’t make out
its face except as four walls,

an architecture of windowlessness.
Migraine when it came was the physical

wafer of my scalawag, migraine & night-
mare & basement titan,

rapscallion, scapegrace. One might be
enamored of the names

that call upon the thing. One might
wander rib-woven the banks

of so many underworlds. One might find
in the horror-mirror a lover,

a plover, a skittering hellion, mouth-
golem, might & mightily

instigate leviathan to pounce, colossus
to hunker down. One might but then

one might not—as if revealed
in a vision I might see

in my fetal barbarian an element
of craft, a signature of wildlife.

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Agatha Develops a Taste for Disaster

I’ve been photographing the geckos
who live under my porch—

one response to creature
flurry being the need to capture—

like speckled fetuses, bellies distended,
almost translucent, they leap

to devour quarter-sized June bugs.
I like to watch the lizards gorge.

Easier to branch the divide, to dictate
an assemblage of bug upon bug

than to be chased by two nine-foot gators
across an expanse of green, a thing

I’ve done too, a moment I’ve run through
& felt the prey inside me, a tiny man

jostling my ribcage. I stand by my hypothesis:
a well-carved stone signifies the root

of human delay. Hunters
will say that buckshot doesn’t always

lead to dinner; they’ll stop
in their tracks to examine a mutant

grape leaf & miss the wild boar
as it runs away. Here lighter, here flame.

Once, a gecko smiled at me,
parting its red lips for my flash

& I caught a set of umbrella-black
wings, still wriggling, still flying away.

space break

Agatha Unbound

            While the star is long dead, its remains are still bursting with action.

In Old Iranian, paradise is a word
for walled.            I cut my dice
& grieve you, green
            potted thing, ciphered

expanse. You’d been stuck
            in a rotary
of naming, the power it gave you
to say giraffe & tiger—those

forms that remain
            unknowable, the softness

of tongues, holy
spirit debacle. How many
wantings are we allowed
            in this life, this one here,

our ions of sand? When a star dies
            it is not expulsion
but propulsion
that guides it into the eternal cycle

of historical remnants.
The night-snake hissed, don’t be afraid.

God the wanderer
under Cassiopeia’s sizzle,
morning thunder
            unabashed. Lest & lest

the only words he knew
to speak to you, a threat guarding
the gates of his invention—
lest they become like us.
            Dragon fruit & tangerine
would have been cleaner

triumphs, would have hoisted
you into true knowing; you’d have
written mythos, eros, thanatos on the gates,
but before land & air,

            water & semen, sea-foam,
a form on the sea, Gaia forming
            waves: mother of all goddesses &
gods, up from the sea, up savage

            beast, up come, vomit up,
crater on earth’s calendar,
                        come up, where the forms
wave-ride to safety, air glistens or listens, let go.

Alexis Orgera is the author of two books of poems, How Like Foreign Objects and Dust Jacket. Her Agatha poems are part of a book-length series of poems in the imagined voice of Agatha of Sicily, or Saint Agatha. Other poems in this series can be found in Carolina Quarterly, Denver Quarterly, Gulf Coast, Memorious, and Prairie Schooner. She is the associate editor of Savannah magazine and co-founder and publisher of Penny Candy Books, and indie children’s book press.