soma; anthropocene; this will suffice; compass


know a flower. hold a heart 
so the honey gnaws out. 

i'm envious of bees. they sing better. 

bodies are tender. so we understand 
rot. in a wood we hear 

the fat of pine and soil, rich and whipped. cold embers
and empty bottles, a stained sweater. the faces of night. it's okay 

not to know this world. 

i utter a self and it's never ready. 

have you looked out the window lately? 
i see a white crane and can't tell 

if the world is being dismantled or repaired. 
what else? you ask. children 

on rooftops playing hopscotch. a horizon
of panels pulsing tv light. roadkill 

done spilling and passersby. you say, I see
some lost hats, regret, and stars swollen shut 

like thumped eyes. we agree 
on the wind. come back to bed, you say, 

and in the quiet we hear 
all our neighbors retracing their steps.
this will suffice

she changes in and out of costumes. she is made of rabbit fur and caped air. she is marshmallow and song and without explanation. she's all possibility that refuses to be fixed. 

what's the language at the end of imagination. at the end of childhood. of a child. 

she curls fingers round the imaginary, deciphers the unnamed with touch. she asks me the difference between day and night. 

at bedtime the costumes go back under the bed and i read to her from one of her storybooks: "a moth spins a cocoon made of silk, while a butterfly wraps itself in a chrysalis or exoskeleton made from its own skin." 

words for her are not yet to blame. 

when the next day she asks why, i say, "we'll stay on this earth because." there are too many ways to finish a sentence for it to ever be finished. 

because we're animals and the moon is a picture. because water rises and trees have their own futures. because this is our text and we're bound to it. because the root of nostalgia is homesick, a sickness, and the sound of wind in the trees reaching us here on this rooftop is the closest thing we'll get to someone holding our hand as we pass. 

my bones ache and the world 
is young. even if we abandon it, 
we can never be children again. 

"can you guess which planet 
is our home sweet home?" she 
asks. i root through all the songs 

for an answer. daylight prunes, 
a color like crushed beetles. 
i'm failing again at love.


J. M. Baker received his MFA from UC San Diego in 2016. His work has appeared in The Brooklyn Review, The Antioch Review, Phoebe, and Epiphany, among other places. Additionally, his work has been named a finalist for The St Lawrence Book Award, The Brittingham Prize, and The Pollak Prize. He currently teaches in the Boston area.