Two Poems
by Michael Prior



Electric phoenix, temperamental pet:
Cradled by pockets, it would die unseen
While crosses and gravestones darkened the screen.
If you practiced, your love could be reset.

Shell of appetite, of family, of rest.
Its sheen wore off beneath your anxious touch:
Proof of a lie you later proved auspice,
When you wished for nights you might still reset.

Mom said it’s not your fault, you did your best:
The same condolence with which she’d lament
The hamsters starved, the goldfish overfed.
You learned on your own what can’t be reset.

A Priori

I learned my Latin like a model disciple.
It was the year of Our Lord. Our Lord
had left. On the estuary, herons scythed
shiners and bullfrogs: they pulsed
against the inevitable like the muscles
of a song. In the first month, I was named
godfather to a dog. I remained wayward,
the prodromal son, while my own
terrier died of tumours, eyelids, moths
in a chloroform jar. For a clock
wrapped in a towel, hear a sleeping
mother’s heart. Later, all motion would stop,
although at points we were hurtling
through the air at incredible heights.
We became what we beheld.  So my father took
to mourning like a dog to a flock of gulls.
His father was a gull—no, a raven:
his intentions wore black wings,
he trained them to nest inside a mess of genes.
Dormant, then not, like the unexpected blue
of eyes that skipped a generation,
their question: whether she had been true.
In the final month, I delivered a prayer
in place of a eulogy. Outside,
the ditches brimmed with runoff.
The hungry tadpoles stalked their kin.

From CNQ 94 (Winter 2016)

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