A Clear Field With Oxen Plowing the Constellated Heavens

After wrestling with their terrestrial captivity,
caterpillars unfurl their wings

from chrysalis penitentiaries, find religion
in a newfound flightism,

this up-in-the-airism a holy space separating
of flight from what had been

off light.  This soaring-through-the-heavensism
technicolors their wings

as if they’d been held in the breathless gloom
of 10,000 locked-up cellars

& now they wing-flap heavy/light, heavylight.
It’s exhausting to dream,

always awakening in the same place, my son
whispers, observing how

they’re the dazzling sun in a coalmine’s belly,
as we skip past a pit bull

taking his man for a walk: The dog speaks
of a godless eternity,

his leash-man barking in reply, or in defiance.
Light’s drained of mass, elms

sticking their seeking branches upon starlings,
an elderly man warning us

metamorphosis changes you, his spotted skin
picked apart by bone

from the inside out, flowerbeds disassembled
by a splash of snow:

He awoke, determined to be someone else,
but thought better of it.

Frenzied moths twirl, bright-winged dervishes
flapping prayers beneath

the moon’s luminescence, the sky no longer
a clear field with oxen

plowing the constellated heavens.  Now,
a satellite-laden freeway

flashes its utility, & a stand of evergreens
clusters together, shivering

like gigantic pipe-cleaners, my son pointing up
at a full moon painting

its memory of sunlight, a glowing afterthought,
as if it knew everything.


Jonathan Greenhause’s first poetry collection, Cupping Our Palms (Meadowlark Press, 2022), was the winner of the 2022 Birdy Poetry Prize, and his poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Barrow Street, Lake Effect, Poetry Wales, and Saranac Review. He lives in Jersey City with his wife and two children.