Tiffany Higgins: Two Poems

THE GREEN HAIR OF IARA

    Have they counted the gold
    in the cornfields?
    Do you know that in Patagonia
    at midday, mist is green?
    Who sings in the deepest water
    in the abandoned lagoon?
    At what does watermelon laugh
    when it’s murdered?
— Neruda, from The Book of Questions

Have they counted the gold
In the soil, in the ancient amber

Crafted in dinosaur bones?

     Yes, they have counted it well.

Have they counted the bodies
Of phytoplankton, millennia-old,

Drifting to sea bottom,
To become black & viscous?

     Yes, they have counted them well.

Have they counted the bores
Down into sea bed,

Platforms from surface, oil rigs, miles and miles
Under earth crust in wells?

     Yes, they have, they have counted them well.

Have they counted the plumes, black lofts?

Did you know that the spectacled bear
In the Andes of Ecuador

Hasn’t been seen at that elevation—
Too warm—Did you know it is fleeing? To where?

Did you know that the rings around your breasts

Are waiting? For a helix, a chance?

Who sings in the deepest water in the
Lagoon? It is Iara, the goddess mermaid
Who lies at the bottom of the lake, and her green
Hair grows out to tree roots, and fruit:

Green emeralds knotted in gnarled roots.
Who cut her was cursed. And Fernão

Dias, explorer, ordered soldiers to slay her men
And remove from her tresses the gems.

On the very next day, he expired.
As days do, as clouds do.

Iara grows still in the abandoned lagoon,
Her hair growing beyond the edges

Of all known thought. And when I said,
I do not know, the birds, who had been perched

At the edge of my dreams,
Came down, dark together, and sat with me

As my skin undid, as all the skins
That have been me flayed clean away.

Oh this excavated heart it is pulsing
The distant rhythm of the nebula.

PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST

She guesses she should
let a breast

into the camera’s
eye, some portion

of her. A crowned toe.
An accidental crevice.

Just to show that an actual
creature is snapping

the pics, arranging
the diptych.

It’s easier though to shelter
behind the photographer’s thick cloth,

to edit out a stray digit,
an erring hand.

A reflex
to countermand?

Merchandisers say viewers
desire the appearance

of a human.
She vows to slyly

edge that in,
obtrusionally angle

a glance

of nipple

in the corner
only a tip

of flesh
far off

where she could be

a wan vesuvius
(before spiring smoke)

or a morel
mushroom

with its brown
sea-tide marks

or the black folds
of the wood ear fungus

or even the sea sailor
long-distance invertebrate

of the indigo sail
( velella velella )

as if the blue-skinned
goddess herself

had careened—
was secretly

always striding—

through the grove
of the scene

Tiffany Higgins is a poet, writer, and translator. She is the author of “The Apparition at Fort Bragg” (2016), an e-chapbook, winner of the Iron Horse Literary Review e-single contest for a long poem, selected by Camille Dungy. The place-based poem, set in Northern California, explores our interwoven relationships with trees, economy, and creatures. Her book “And Aeneas Stares into Her Helmet” (Carolina Wren Press, 2009) was selected by Evie Shockley as winner of the Carolina Wren Poetry Prize. Her chapbook of translations from Portuguese of Rio poet Alice Sant’Anna’s poetry, “Tail of the Whale,” was published by Toad Press in 2016. Her poems appear in Broadsided Press, The California Journal of Poetics, Catamaran Literary Reader, From the Fishouse, Kenyon Review, Massachusetts Review, Poetry, Prelude, Taos Journal of Poetry & Art, and are forthcoming in Ghost Fishing, an anthology of ecojustice poems (U Georgia). In addition to ecocriticism on Brazilian poetry, she is currently writing on threats to indigenous and traditional communities in Brazil’s
Amazon.

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