Footprints in the Order of Disappearance

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Fady Joudah‘s “Footprints in the Order of Disappearance,” from our Spring 2018 Issue, will be featured in the 2020 Pushcart anthology due out in November. 


A fever of thyself think of the Earth


I call the finding of certain things loss

I hold grief close to brace myself for the expected

The unexpected not coeval with the unwanted
they kneel me

I have a fever

when at customs I don’t declare                                                   
what I brought into my country                                                 
from that other minor country

a periodic fever

when in legacy mode my teeth have grown                                 
too yellow for the abrupt hug               

of a carnivorous flower

And that I pray for bipedal aliens                                                   
or play to inner ear bones those Max Ernst structures

Consanguineous or not                   
all my erasures are relatives
And you and I are hapten-stance:                                                   

you elicit me to me                                                                             
move me in me

I have a fever others speak I learned love in

For relief I braid Tylenol with Motrin                                           
at the shore of words the sea ends

Consider me a color                                                                           
an unspoken sound                                                                         
aphasia won’t clarify

Per your mother                                                                                 
they have books on tape now

Per mine dead dogs will follow me

The soul of one dog will enter and exit other dogs                     
whose deaths I’ll come upon

I won’t know whose soul I will run                                                 
lizards and rodents and a rabbit                                                     
will mortgage my dreams

There will be light to wake me sootless                                         
there will be light to resect my spleen

There are always women and bees                                                 
and who can’t tell a story about honey?

Newborns aside                                                                                 
I’m unlikely to cause anyone harm

My benefits outstrip my collateral                                                 
on an earth we’ll never plow

What if butterfly or moth on lemon or mango tree?                   
What if I taste the coffee you swirled inside your cheeks?

To each its caterpillar

I defervesce                                                                                         
I have a fever others speak I learned love in

Between my nipples and knees and within                                   
the frame whose borders are laser-hung                                       
to render umpires surplus

I defervesce                                                                                         
our error was mutual                                                                         
and being touched was how                                                             
you touched me back

Your cherries are black                                                                   
your eyes grabbed mine by the elbows                                         
our fourth and sixth cranial nerves intact

You pitched your face in my shoulder                                           
variance in clinical features
strapped to the waist

To be clear                                                                                         
one mustn’t be connected to the bed of another                         
about to be shocked

To be clear                                                                                        
what one does with the towel is the business                             
of making cancer history

A remittent fever                                                                               
I too shall overcome
the majority incarcerated in herniated prisms                             

out of what kind of house into prison

Out of prison into what kind of house

My fever says I am the one who never was                                 
a narcissus under hooves                                                                 
now a boxthorn

I’d bury my sorrow alive                                                                   
but my sorrow has bones

My fever says I need skin                                                                 
other than that of a bacteriophage                                                 
and besides

mist was falling                                                                                   and Sisyphus                                                                                       
forget him

he could’ve died like the rest of us

Where is he now                                                                                
and what has he seen?

Which protection program and was he                                         
at any point a Gizmo?

Tell me a story when you were little

Your mom bathed you until you were ten                                     
you said you’d tie your dad’s shoes                                               
for him when he’s ninety

Tell me when you opened your lunch box                                     
she’d packed for you the night before
Here’s a lock of your toddler hair                                                   

and your baby teeth

biting your dorsal wrist                                                                     
in a perfect circle to tell the time

the marks take to disappear


Fady Joudah’s latest book of poetry, Footsteps in the Order of Disappearance, is available from Milkweed Press.