The Underworld


The Underworld

Going down past rags and bones,
past frost and roots, past
shark teeth, auricles of aurochs,
teeth of megalodon, through
shells of murex, triton,
whelk, down among the soul’s
lattices and ladders, purple sluices
and bones white as daisies, among
corpuscles among clouds of
plankton and protozoa, winds that
move trees like stags, gales whipping
across fens, rain pounding like blood
over steamy greenhouses with morphos
and satyrines, toads and ganglia
strung like lianas, leaves big as huts,
languages of clicks and tongues
liquid as heartbeats, songs of stems
and mud, grubs and microbes,
crystals and dung, and a pulse
strumming trellises of ribs, pulling
it all together where is neither
night nor day, where fingers
move in blind voluptuousness,
naked as earthworms, touching
notes from everything, here where
mind leaves fresh prints on archives,
whispers tracks onto slabs and
bedrock to bloom again and again,
here where is emptiness, the way
a shrine is important for what’s
not there, here where music is
the noise silence makes, here where
a head washes up, wave-scoured,
resonant as an empty conch shell,
singing of the underworld.

Permission required for reprinting, reproducing, or other uses.

Brian Swann is the author of St. Francis and the Flies, which won the 2015 Autumn House Poetry Prize. His forthcoming books are Dogs on the Roof and Companions, Analogies, his 12th collection of poetry.


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