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Joshua Poteat

Illustrating the Illustrators
[See Plate 123, Fig. 46-47]

When we wrote the name that we were told
 
             was ours, the name that contained all
 
we would be given and all that would be lost,
                         there was a pleasure in the small, exact
 
movements of our hands, the pencil a machine,
        
          worshipped, and that was where it began.
 
We said Let us be children together,
                          and we drew our lives before the body.
 
We drew the coal-quay whores with wooden legs,
 
          the tow-horses asleep against the fog. Even dusk
 
flooded a whole new darkness, a sympathetic ink.
                          We said If death is like this then give us more.
 
From Illustrating the 13 transits of Mercury in the 19th century
 
Mercury asleep against a blue-ribbon goat
 
And everyone a witness of the buried years, of
the animal’s flesh, all animals the living island,
the only ones under the trees. Our ancestor with
the crippled wrist gave us light, and our goat ate
clover softest from the hand.
 
Mercury asleep with the whippoorwill
 
The living darknesses of nests in the garden,
snake-paths through the straw, I know in myself
that call, dense where the landscapes line
themselves up, emerging throughout the weeds.
Where the ghost lamb stood, night came from
the ground.
 
Mercury asleep in the retreat of lost armies
 
The clear water that appeared in craters after the
cannons fell, after the enemy said I’ve never seen
snow before, froze, and we drank nothing.
Through the ice, we could see black fish
mouthing at us, so we cut holes for them to visit,
took them for our wives. This is a new world, we
said. Farewell to the other.

Mercury asleep again on the illustration of the metal tongue
[See Plate 19, Fig. 95]
 
There are geese in the sky tonight, alone in their
snow. I can hear their metal tongues, calling to
that unknown season, over the houses, the
harvested streets. In the innumerable world, in
the brave ghost kingdom, there are many ways
to live, and this is one of them.

                 -from Illustrating the Machine that Makes the World

Listen to Joshua Poteat read his work here