Wakeful Things by Michael Prior

Poet name: Michael Prior Poem Name: Wakeful Things Poem: 		You should never put the new antlers of a deer to your nose and smell them.  		They have little insects that crawl into the nose and devour the brain. 		—Kenkō, Essays in Idleness  Consider that the insects might be metaphor. That the antlers’ wet velvet scent  might be Proust’s madeleine dipped into a cup of tea adorned with centrifugal patterns of azalea  and willow—those fleshing the hill behind this room,  walls wreathed in smoke and iron, musk  of the deer head above the mantle. He was nailed in place  before I was me. Through the floorboards,  a caterpillar, stripped from its chrysalis by red ants, wakes, as if to a house aflame. Silk frays  like silver horns, like thoughts branching from a brain.  After the MRI, my father’s chosen father squinted  at the wormholes raveling the screen and said, Be good to each other. Love,  how inelegantly we leave. How insistent we are to return  in one form or another. I wish all of this and none of it for us: more sun, more tempest, more  fear and fearlessness—more of that which is tempered, carved,  and worn, creased into overlapping planes. The way  I feel the world’s aperture enlarge in each morning’s  patchwork blur of light and colour while I fumble  for my glasses beside the bed—lenses smudged  by both our hands. When they were alive,  those antlers held up the sky. Now what do they hold?  End of Poem.  Credits: Copyright © Michael Prior Previously published in Burning Province, (McClelland & Stewart, 2020). Michael Prior is the author of Burning Province (McClelland & Stewart, 2020), winner of the 2020 Canada-Japan Literary Award, and Model Disciple (Véhicule Press, 2016), which was named one of the best books of the year by the CBC.   He is a past winner of Magma Poetry’s Editors’ Prize, The Walrus’s Poetry Prize, and Matrix Magazine’s Lit POP Award for Poetry. He is the recipient of fellowships from the Jerome Hill Foundation, the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers, and Hawthornden International Retreat for Writers. His poems have appeared in Poetry, The New Republic, Narrative Magazine, Poetry Northwest, Poetry Ireland Review, PN Review, the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-A-Day series, and elsewhere.