Poetry / Alyse Bensel
:: Genetic ::
Tracing mitochondrial lineage we ask
who fathered this child, the mother silent
as an exhibit behind glass. Seahorse fins
undulate like the cilia of cells that perform
routine functions, that mutate. The rote
gathering of drones is driven by their need
for honey. The male seahorse harbors
his children inside his torso until he rears
like a stallion, emptying them into the sea.
Every atom roams within its own supposed
atmosphere, so we can only guess
where an electron exists. The gene charters
an imperfect code left to chance.
But we never worry about flesh suddenly
pulling from our bones. Our reincarnation
is a slick Mobius strip, a seashell’s whorl
leading us toward our false eternity.
:: Love in the Anthropocene ::
Gas bubbles from the tundra.
This week a tornado so wide
you think it an ordinary storm
will kiss your rooftop
while the night crawlers
worm the soil, the termites
you paid good money to poison
hollow your house.
The animal and hunter exhaust
one another: cat and vole,
killer whale and gray whale.
Cannibal hunger. How much
can you consume and expect
to be whole? You wield
a thick black line,
fragment the territory,
whittle the stream banks,
the marsh, the tadpoles
that survive in the ditch
before the summer drought.
Thousands of miles away,
the glaciers weep back.
From the writer
:: Account ::
I am always thinking about the end of the world—the end of me, the end of everyone, whether human, plant, or mineral. These poems are an interrogation of the consequences of global warming. The apocalypse feels a breath away, from the rise of natural catastrophes to mass extinction to the effects of a polluted environment on the long-term health of every living creature on this planet. While these poems may celebrate that life, they are always cautious of the inherent danger trying to maintain stasis, or even move forward for the sake of progress while diminishing the future. How long does all of this beauty, all of this destruction, have left? While I am cautious of optimism, I am invested in skepticism, in action, in taking stock of the world. This work takes the same perspective: rooted on the earth, fiercely looking to the horizon.
Alyse Bensel is the author of Rare Wondrous Things, a poetic biography of Maria Sibylla Merian (Green Writers Press, forthcoming 2020), and three chapbooks, including Lies to Tell the Body (Seven Kitchens Press, 2018). Her poems have appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Gulf Coast, Poetry International, and West Branch. She is an assistant professor of English at Brevard College, where she directs the Looking Glass Rock Writers’ Conference.