Asleep on Park Bench with Palmer and Fowler’s Fieldbook of Natural History Used as Pillow by Josh Parish

The words that had been interwoven in the very being of the beast have been unravelled and
removed: and the living being, in its anatomy, its form, its habits, its birth and death, appears as
though stripped naked.

Michel Foucault, The Order of Things

When God was handing out physiques, I thought he said antiques

and asked for a distressed relic. But seriously, folks. These bodies.

Imagine every creature spellbound by its finest feature. A tadpole’s
in love with its tail. A mussel prays to its foot. Octopuses of course

worship arms but envy the spines of salmon, who raindance in a shower
of nerves. Stink is incense to a skunk. Surely a dog thinks God lives in its nose,

the stereo scents down the snout always just out of sight.
Homo habilis, her hands. And us, the brain

with its baggage. Braaains some days I say and pretend I’m a zombie,
arms before me dangling, doing this funny little shuffle step I invented.

Do not say miiind. That word is an inkcloud the organ itself shoots
in survival as it swims to darkness. So too subconscious, unconscious.

So too all language for that matter. So too I guess God, soul.
I bear such grief those days.

(Hold your applause, atheists. So too mathematics and law, any other neat
order to mask the chaos. All our taxonomies, even past and future.)

But seriously.

When God was handing out brains, I thought he said trains
and asked for a slow one.

I like watching the scenery.

This I say other days. At dawn in a quiet room, maybe, if I can take my
waking slow, with a brief amnesia of where we are and how we got here.

My eyes rise from the covers as if rising on a strange planet. I try to
carry the feeling like you’d rescue a seaturtle egg rolling in the waves,

washed from its nest on shore. You’d cup it in your palm, not handling
it too much, afraid of disturbing it. But it trembles, always trembles,

and suddenly in your hand is a turtle. It stretches its head over your thumb,
shocked by this cold morning, lost in all this light, bewitched.


Josh Parish was born a citizen of the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma and spent much of his life in the Pacific Northwest. His writing has appeared in or is forthcoming from Hippocampus, Apple in the Dark, Devil’s Lake, and other publications. He received an MFA in fiction writing from the University of Washington, where his collection of short stories, Hardest Weather in the World, won the David Guterson Award. He teaches English at Tulsa Community College and is a founder of the college’s literary journal, Tulsa Review.