• Matryoshka

    Michael Mlekoday

    Winter 2022

    Is there anything but darkness
    inside the linden tree
    turned maternal doll?

    Seems like a question for quantum,
    but my ancestors had their own systems

    for physics. They involved sifting
    a palmful of soil
    to count corn poppy seeds

    against the shape of afternoon
    arcing through the kitchen window,
    kinetics of moths and nettles.

    Dig down to the thirtieth doll,
    thirty-third, eleven dresses ago

    in my family rhizosphere,
    and find a carving of Veles,

    the wet and wooly god
    of earth, death, and cattle.

    My grandmother swears
    he became St. Basil,

    the same way she
    became my namesake and father
    when Dad wouldn’t claim me.

    Where there’s need,
    there’s transformation,
    piecemeal and permanent

    as decay. The linden tree,
    sacred back in the motherland,

    produces perfect flowers,
    meaning bisexual—
    and who’s to argue with the botanists?

    Sometimes I wish I could
    peel myself from myself
    without discarding the shell.

    Michael Mlekoday lives in the Putah Creek watershed of California, where they serve as Poetry Editor of Ruminatemagazine and teach classes on hip-hop, Gothic literature, and wilderness poetics. They are a National Poetry Slam Champion and the author of two books: All Earthly Bodies (2022) and The Dead Eat Everything (2014).

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