Revisiting Issue 49 — “Pastoral” by Michael Mlekoday

Michael Mlekoday
I talk to the moths and opossums.
If I were an apostle, I’d take the gift
of tongues and stick it in the dirt,
kneeling, to hear what blooms,
what bides. A family of raccoons
pawed behind my bicycle for blocks,
one night, like they know the city
was made for animal highs.
They led me from behind
like a shepherd with six eyes.
In a town we think belongs to us,
a man phoned the police
when a feral turkey cornered him
against the brick wall of a bank.
Does it matter that it was daylight?
Are there rains that scare
the bejesus out of you when alone?
Do you just overflow with bejesus
like a catchment barrel not big enough
for the new climate’s superstorms?
Once, I was unswarmed with loneliness.
I went back to the wilderness
to learn the names of my cousins.
I never did study the charts,
the hierarchies and removes and all that,
but I breathed the fig-soaked air
and understood enough.

Michael Mlekoday lives in the Putah Creek watershed of California, teaching classes on hip-hop, Gothic literature, and wilderness poetics. A National Poetry Slam Champion, Mlekoday co-founded Button Publishing and currently serves as Poetry Editor of Ruminate Magazine and Editor of The Lichening (coming soon!). They curate a weekly newsletter of cool poems called Dredge. More information about Mlekoday can be found here.