The Survival of What Remains

Michael Lee

In the desert, the heat itself is a thief
and steals rain from the body. The stone,
red as a bloodshot eye. The dawn
opens like a hinge. A single raven

bows from a fence post again and again
as we pass its mantra of rustling, its wings flaring
as if to welcome us into the blackness
of its endless mouth. Its unimaginable eyes.
How easy it would be to give myself away to this

small hunger, this fist sized silhouette opening its body
like a mangled hand. Imagine the heart,
so thick with blood it must seem black
as a raven, imagine how it might look if it were to unfurl

in exhaustion, something like a burnt map
across a table, a black thing with wings. Imagine the span
of the wings, thus the span of love and of survival,
which eventually begin to mean the same thing
until it is clear that they always have.

There is a pulse even in stone and in the sleeping corpses
of cattle strewn across the clay lips of the horizon, deflated
almost entirely of life save a distant tick, like that of a clock,
in their sharpened bones digging out from their hide, as if to escape.

I have seen death sharpen its beak on the dry air and life climb out
of a starved thing to then become wind. If the bone and the breath
can survive the body then the body can survive these long days
where the sun sets like a guillotine and the heart opens
as though it could fly clean out of the mouth.


Michael Lee is a Norwegian American writer, performer and youth worker. He has received grants from Intermedia Arts and the Minnesota State Arts Board. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Indiana Review, Prime Number and Rattle, among other journals. Michael has worked as a dishwasher, a farm hand, and a traveling performer. Currently, he works as a youth counselor for teens experiencing homelessness in Minneapolis where he lives with many books and a coffee pot. Lee has another poem published in this issue of Phoebe, which you can read here

You’ll find biographies for all contributors to Phoebe 43.2 here. 

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