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Clade Song 3


The Lost Man Meets the Giant

The water kept rising, crops under, cars under,
high ground a low note, and not a boat gone by.
The lost man had seen it happen before: the people wanted
water, and so they were given water.
One by one, they became what they asked for,
until he was alone and clinging.
Eventually, the land returned
because that was also asked, and the lost man
stepped down onto it.
But this time, no one had asked for water.
It came anyway. Then everyone asked for land,
but it did not answer. The trees were tired.
The animals barely had enough left over
to kill each other, and they slept in gray branches.
Then the giant floated under with arms spread so wide
the invitation was hardly a question,  
and the lost man jumped aboard.
The woman who handed him a pole
gave him a quadrant to work and went back to her area.
Along the way, the lost man pulled in chickens
and fruit from the trees, slaughtered hogs
in the Knee Region of the Giant,
fed strips and chunks into Territory of the Mouth.
The giant’s hunger was their only strategy.
It floated them. It grew by feeding.
At night they lit fires on barrel floats and told stories.
One of them whispered that in all the stories,
the raft’s demise is what determines the next chapter
for its people. And there is always, says the man, a demise.
They will need a plan.
The lost man shapes his plan’s story with his hands.
He acts a tree, shows a harvesting of branches
and a lashing of them together. He still believes
trees might save them. The woman says no.
She knows her giant, and hunger’s question
will never surprise them with a different answer.
They will be fine, she says, as long as
they can gather birds and seals, lure exhausted deer.
As long as they can cull the matted sheep, the swirling
cats, as long as they can pull seaweed, reel fish,
follow riptides through to pelicans and cormorants,
find canisters of wheat, haul in bears with grapple hooks,
hack meat out of turtles, empty the ocean’s bag
of fish. As long as that, then that.

Impossible to Know Which Ring the Ring of the Answer

Clade Song 3 right

Jennifer Boyden is the author of two books of poetry, The Declarable Future and The Mouths of Grazing Things, which won the Brittingham Prize. Prior, she received a PEN Northwest Wilderness Writing Residency Award, a gift of time that allowed her to write and serve as caretaker for a year on a remote homestead near the Rogue National Wild and Scenic River in Oregon. There, she barred the doors against drunk bears, talked to boulders, and learned to tie flies. She’s currently working on a new poetry and essay project that is already making frequent use of the word chickens.