Nick Lantz


Either Or

You haven’t heard
from your father
in six months
and you can’t
bring yourself
to call. In Bengal,
farmers wore
masks on the backs
of their heads
to ward off tigers,
who, one supposes,
wouldn’t attack
a man who was
watching. If I don’t
call, you thought,
nothing is wrong.
Each possibility is
a cavern eaten
out of limestone
by water. Naming
everything is a way
of naming nothing.
His family dropped
away like cicada
husks swept off

The Prophecies of Paracelsus

That twig of light, that branch, that
fork, that form.
Beyond that, a city. A horse drowning in
a river, and beyond that, a city. Wildfire, and beyond that,
a city. God, a slippery thing,
an eel, is twined
from our hands. That rainy hum is
the wharf, is the light that etches a bridge
between pronouns, the bottle
of amber formaldehyde, the infant
orangutan, the wing
of a gull stitched to its scapula. Here is a river
drowning in a horse’s dark eye. Devitalized, humming, rainy,

“The Decay of ancient knowledge”

To cure a child of rickets, split a living
ash tree down its length and pass
the child through
(naked, headfirst, three times).
Seal the two halves of the tree back up
and bind them with loam and black
thread. If the tree heals, so will the child.
(The child must also be washed
for three mornings in the dew
of the chosen tree.)