Steffi Drewes

5 poems



What can you tell us about your firstborn desire? Take
one step forward if you have mud thumbs or are
experiencing a synthesis of sound and memory. At times
you may find the angle of the light deafening, but the
position of the planets is especially pleasing this time of
year. Picture these blades of green as your first true
voice. If you feel unsteady, say fathom or fire or build a
new matrix of want, a clever nest out of nothing. Did you
hear the explanation of the purposeful rock and its need
to vibrate every hour on the hour? Scratch that. Time
after tinder, you will train your grit on the phantom
forest, now the spring-loaded version rising behind it. The
sooner the truck echo fades into cloud spit, the sooner
we take to song or practice our steel selves, tired veins



Do you want to draw an opening where there is none?
Imbibe this instinct. To calculate the distance between
creatures and a certain self. To fix your eyes with a look
that means uninterrupted ocean. Unlike every other
native species, you have the reflexes of a cloud. Whose
spots are showing, part hoof, part thumb, firelit and
spitting thorns? Exposed to an uneven glow, each form
sheds its feeling. Check the box next to the howl you
want to resemble. Hieroglyphs carved in the side of a
truck, rocks assembled in the shape of who is calling. If
we forget to mask the hum of our veins, beware the
shimmer-tongued who bristle at every step. On second
thought, we might have to take a blade to the turnstile,
unleash a wilder need. Now is a whole new menagerie.
Everything your horns dreamed of. What comes alive
inside you. Inside every swarm.



As the saying goes, her crouch was more complex than
a million rays of untouched light. Forget everything you
thought you knew about fire. This one makes a triangle
with his thumbs and forefingers as if to say: nice to
complete you. Upon entering the same room, our
electrons are beside themselves with feeling. Blades of
belonging. Here’s looking at you. The need to run her
voice up against and over and every. (That means she
wants to flood your cloud highway.) More than a
truckstop menage a trois, we are eager algorithms.
Inside this box is an undiscovered animal standing in for
every scientific century. Having braided our veins and
sealed them with spitfire questions. The hours, the
hours. Take this rock as collateral, this red solar flare.



Thumbs, all thumbs. You know who is beginning to
sound like one tired truck. What if two bodies find fault
with opposite endpoints, naming each falling star
instead of a fulcrum? Always easier said than done:
running in the same vein. That’s what happens when
you put voice box before fan blade, the meaning ahead
of the rock. The truth comes in coos and shudders. Try
wanting more from any shared orbit. That forecast
about pistons, forgotten—a theory of superior
aquatint, debunked. Consider letting the plastic
perform itself to sleep. In asymmetrical scenarios, you
do not pass beyond, cannot press connect, will not
collect or build on abundance. Proximity is taxing. So
what if desire rhymes with hellfire. Just think: a different
shade of hazard would look ravishing on those
shoulders. Now we’re really spitting venom. Losing all
cloud capacity. Oh my ear, my aching syntax. Here is
the soundtrack of our magnetic resistance. Let me play
it for you again.



What I meant to say was: if A is traveling faster than B in
every direction and B is practicing a feeble kite pose,
then I will always be A. It’s that getting over a mountain
feeling, only everyone else is the mountain. In case you
forgot, I am the ratio that got away. A city built on who
goes first. Repeat after me: there is no box brighter no
cosmic rock no infinite truck that comes close to
shattering my shiny scaffolding. Today it’s a thumb
game, tomorrow an intergalactic obstacle course. I think
we need a new cloud index. (And the spit chorus kicks
in.) Look who wants to crack the code, unlock a voice
more volcano than wrecking ball, veins more feral than
fauna. That’s an awful lot of blade talk for such a
fledgling fire. How long can the objects stay afloat?
What’s the difference between a teller of tales and a
particle accelerator? Just keep your knuckles where we
can see ‘em.



Powerlines map a system of escape for small animals—squirrels, birds, rats.
You have considered becoming a small animal on more than one occasion, but
never an insect, never a larva. Leaving it all behind. Going under the radar, to
risk being called lepton a time or two. No, feeling insignificant is not the same
as disappearing. All that matters today is to see this web of wires and know its
name. To recognize the intensity of the streetlights as they trace your trajectory.
Make a moth out of you.

Small creatures, sparked by sudden movements—you recognize this twitch in
your own circuitry, tracking an ever distant lunar body. Take it from any moth
or monarch, Lepidoptera, dreaming is different as a winged thing. Grown
accustomed to gnawing all night, digging holes or hatched in sweaters. The
good news is you are next to dust. No one here is tracking your particular mouth
made of fables. Your particle dance only magnetic to bats. Let the ultrasonic
frequency possess you, go ahead and plunge mid-flight to evade being
swallowed. Wake up in a sweat. Who or what is following you? Too many things
to name.

Looking inward, past all those filaments. No two leptons of the same species
can be in exactly the same state at the same time. What kind of state are you
in? And do your neighbors know? In fact, the whole street suffers a panging
insecurity—which genetically modified vegetable looks best on the mantle,
which haircut is most suitable for the dog, and why the bank teller refuses to
call you by name 

Wednesday has everyone feeling unstable, unusable even.

Inside the structure that sustains you, there are so many classes at work, a
performance of screens and inefficient satellites. A lepton knows how to keep
it simple by existing in only two spin states—up or down. Click click. See how
easily you can switch to fool the others? Even moths can fly in a straight line,
by maintaining a constant angular relationship to bright light. Nocturnal as you
are, this is an entirely new strategy. If only you had access to your light source.

Once you tried to follow the glow of a distant marquee—or was it a man with
a lantern in a clock tower? You ran along the horizon and nearly dipped below,
trying to correct your steps in relation to the shine.

Now what have you done with your angle? Something is off. Too many
unpredictable collisions or false threads and you become overcharged, fall into
a spin—poor moth, poor misfit. Plunge those sunburned tips into a watering
can or wilted tiger lily. The relief is minor, but meaningful. Click click. So many
small pleasures that go unnoticed, and still, there is a certain pleasure to
invisibility you cannot ignore.

Living in public, one can be mistaken for a much larger creature. The flash point
distorted by magnification. Know your flux. Learning as you go that heat
lightning and strobes are the best source of spontaneous desire. Even in an
altered state, you become wary of the afterimage, aware of the red lights on
every recording device. On or off stage, the sun makes you feel small, except
when you hold a quarter in front of it. Click click. Does the pinpoint of fire have
you seeing double yet?

Steffi Drewes is the author of Tell Me Every Anchor Every Arrow (Kelsey Street Press, 2016) and four poetry chapbooks, most recently New Animal (Dancing Girl Press, 2017). Her work has appeared in various journals and event series, including the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books and the 2018 Way Bay Poetry Assembly and postcard project at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive. She has been granted writing and art residencies at Ragdale, Vermont Studio Center, and the Wassaic Project in New York.