Before That


before and after Merwin

It was two women and a tadpole & never at night
& always above water where old age happens &
vegetables are for sale & surgically removed
grapes fit our eye sockets. Before it all depended
on laundry detergent. Before infection. Before
the history of seeing. Before a broad sense of darkness
between her legs & my legs in a freezer next to a fox.
Before the perfect conditions for the story about a man
walking. These women swam & water lapped. Before
our baptism there was a frog and a fox named Stanley.
Raised in New Jersey where everyone thought they
were sisters. Before they arrived on land with air
in their lungs, ready to huff & puff & blow it all
into one wish. Before wishes they were trees.
Three flat rooted pines under her breath &
fungus in her lungs & heart knots in her veins
& before digging implied we were above
these allusions & before emergence & then
fading & forgetting, which is how we got here.
It is by self-forgetting, or it is by doing laundry
& licking & before pleasure & armpits & words
with bacteria & propagating & potatoes budding
& of love & without permission & before that
a moving target with one eye in each hand. Before
the exact ratio of sodium magnesium & potassium
& great grandmothers & their needs & genetically
determined shapes & fibroids & uteri & adrenal
glands & pollywogs. Every twenty-six days &
counting & below words & a change of underwear
& a change of heart & loaded & then unloaded.

Nicole Santalucia