JM Miller is a trans-identified poet, essayist, instructor and healer living on a 10-acre organic farm on Vashon Island, WA. They have one poetry collection, Wilderness Lessons and a chapbook, Primitive Elegy (alicebluebooks). JM won the Grand Prize for the Eco Arts Awards in 2014 & was a finalist for terrain.org's 2013 poetry contest. They teach poetry and creative nonfiction writing at the University of Washington in Tacoma and are an instructor at Richard Hugo House. Their essays and poetry can be found at Tupelo Quarterly, Poecology, Bellingham Review, terrain.org, Cimarron Review, Columbia Poetry Review, CURA, Written River: A Journal of Eco-Poetics, Five Fingers Review, Whitefish Review and others.
how death holds form, a beholding
or more accurately: how an elegy holds the body with words
I cannot tell you how I already know
the butterfly, or how I recognize its body
on the roadside, wind
bristling the stillness
as if spirit remains/be/holds
or the numbers giving in to gusts
or the ampersand between its wings
I cannot tell you anything of the world of dying
except that blackberry is pungent as it blisters
and the sliding dust of umber and sand from your wings
I can tell you it planted a comet in my eyes
death itself is the release of the material form of the body, but I am interested in this poem in the ways that we try to hold the idea of death: in poems, stories, photographs, even flowers planted by at a grave site. It was nearly summer in Washington and I'd been walking by what appeared to be the same butterfly each day for a week; it was umber and white; I saw it so often that thoughts began to form around it. When a few days later I saw it dead on the roadside — or what appeared to be its image, there's always an assumption in resemblances — I thought about how its body holds life through form, even in the face of the release of its life. I thought of my own desire for "wildness" and how this must be related to living closer to death; not to hold it like a doll of worry, but rather to behold it by living with an accentuated aliveness; blistering with life.
Glass: A Journal of Poetry is published monthly by Glass Poetry Press.
All contents © the author.