Ecology: by Karla Kelsey


Ringing the brownstone bell twice, late arrival, a track fire on the 6 created when trash ignited in the dark, combustion flickering across the eyes of rats. Late, so late, would it not have been better to turn around instead of disrupting the bridal shower, the bride-to-be & co. already part-drunk on mulled wine. To disrupt this with snow melting puddles on the floor. The rats in the subway had watched, indifferent, until the smell of singed fur evoked a vision: they each scurried away with a fragment in the dark. Part-drunk on manicured nails, satin teddies—so 80’s it’s hilarious, but seriously satin—and meet Elle—my, half-cousin? Removed cousin? Works at the City Museum. The vision had permeated the subway car, watch-check and studying an advert for mattresses, cartoon dog, lesbian couple with apple heads dreaming on a cloud slashed through with the bright windows of 33rd, 28th, 23rd flashing past. Slashed through with the rats’ collective vision: field white, silent, then the doe flinched as she was pierced by an arrow. And continuing through the tunnel rewinding the doe to a fawn and then rewinding the fawn to sliding from her mother’s womb, tracing her scent, losing her scent. Rewinding to the mad rush of trapping her mother in a pen with a buck and rutting, her wild cries, the long meadow of buttercups pushing up. Rewind to the warm hollow and sleep like death but accompanied by constellations, hunks of glass traveling through the body.

Time traveled through the pack of rats as they scattered. The bride-to-be in her little crêpe veil. Arctic warming, ice melting, pressing on global weather systems, thinning the polar vortex. An old photograph of Analuca, the b-t-b’s namesake, mutual great-aunt? twice removed?—shared relation from the Hungarian side. Analuca I clutches the arm of her first husband, squints in her wedding dress into the sun in front of the bombed-out Szent Istvan’s, Budapest, 1945. Is it possible to save fracture by becoming a membrane through which the cosmic jacks directly into the solar plexus? Had the b-to-b ever seen this photograph? Connection to the cosmic, the b-t-b looks quite like her, like Analuca I. Why else the ability to witness the birth and collapse of the solar system via a ten-minute film shown in the cosmology unit of science class? Why else train the body to slow, to inhale the dark vapors of others’ discontent: coal, chalk, the bitter side of the dump’s burn. You have to be our family emissary mother had said from California, the clear image of pool-andpalms, talking on the phone. Mother dips her toe into the pool. The radio says wild fire and the image fills with smoke, inhaling particles of ash, condensed aerosol of waters, nitrogen oxide. Inhaling this and then exhaling something crystalline, like ice.

Attending the shower was awkward, only having met the b-t-b once, twice. The wild fire closes in, burns a circle, and dies out before subsuming mother, subsuming pool. The fire dies out and one finds oneself breathing roses and carnations in the florist’s humidity as the shopkeeper wraps the bouquet against frost. Bouquet presented and the b-t-b unwrapping a purple dildo.

Smoke doesn’t obstruct an image: it thoroughly scrambles it. Which leaves the present— where? Analuca I the same age as Analuca II but Hungarian eyes and their name are the only shared things. Finding a vase in the kitchenette and plunging the bouquet in. A duration undocumented but not unmarked, for example the clock’s hands wearing away at their spindle. Roses, carnations, baby’s breath calming the cheetah spotting along the brow. The concept now wearing away at its spindle as we cling to the rose despite its scent muted by generations of breeding for longer-lasting blooms. Breeding for petals in nearly every hue.

The Newlywed game: when was your first kiss? Dark, velvety petals mark the most fragrant roses. Walking over Brooklyn Bridge late summer. Clasped in embrace, bikes weaving, time became taste, taste became touch, touch become pulse. Pulling off petals and cramming them in the mouth.

And then ever-after: time once again became time. Taste, taste. Touch, touch, as if pulse had never shifted.

And AnalucaII had begun the habit of comparing and contrasting us-on-the-bridge with uson-the-street. Hybrid roses, resistant to disease, are suited to a wide range of climates, have flowers that last longer when cut, bloom more frequently, have longer stems, but have little to no scent. Us-on-the-bridge contrasted with us-meeting-after-work and he’s texting most of the way home. Rose genome mapped, researchers isolate the gene RhNUDX1, responsible for scent and known in other organisms to produce an enzyme that helps cells manage stress. Us-not-on-the-bridge uncoupled from light filtering through the summer dress, from the almost-forbidden, from the not-quite-sure. RhNUDX1 isolated can be injected into hybrid roses to vivify scent.

What is his most annoying habit? Always the aisle seat in theaters, on airplanes. The seat closest to the door in restaurants, in other people’s houses, the seat closest to escape. Of course not wanting to admit this Analuca II liked to think of this as his Gemini-showing-through, two dog-headed humans facing one-another and holding up between them a shining disk on a metallic shaft: a mirror reflecting a flame? a golden staff with a red plate? a flower? If only she could clearly discern the image.

Scientists are not certain but hypothesize that released ocean energy has caused a weakening of polar vortex winds over the Arctic. A bridal shower game with tarot cards, each card read as sex and recognizing the doe-headed woman flung face-down on fertile earth, swords piercing her body to the ground, a state of no pleasure, ever, or this is pleasure: to be flung face-down. To be pierced. This image cannot be figured out. Tip of steel. Whose fault, the tyrant regarding the body as nothing? Or: shotgun lifted, sighted, finger on the trigger and then the dream cuts out before revealing whether what exists is nothing or something. When shot does one fall a heavy animal or vaporize into a poof of violet? Not merely philosophical, the question considers being as what weaves fiber to fiber, skin to air, body to body, river to mountain.

//The psychic laws of justice wherein we advance according to our ability to understand the past woven/ thinking is also a construction woven/ meat as venison, skin as buckskin woven/ strong woven/ soft woven/ antlers as handles for knives, bones from tundra to rainforest species living in transitional areas between forests woven/ thickets woven/ prairies woven/ savannas woven/ tines on the antlers create grooves that allow another set of antlers to lock in place woven/ the fawn stays hidden in the grass for a week//



Karla Kelsey is author of four books, most recently Of Sphere, selected by Carla Harryman and published by Essay Press. Blood Feather, a book of poetry, is forthcoming from Tupelo Press.