In Iceland, I stepped into the arc of a massive cave,
—its shadows almost certainly my demise.
In the distance, a glacier loomed—its own blue horizon,
its massive, slow-moving arms.
A human is a worthless thing,
except for wonder;
or, its opposite in extreme:
living a thankless day
and not understanding why.
I believe that when Virginia waded into the river
her pockets were full. It was everything else that was empty.
It takes a legion to communicate into the blue dark,
dense as a vinyl record.
We sent one into space, you know, a record
our etched humanity, music—Bach, Blind Willie Johnson,
Maybe we were marking the growth of something we find hard to name;
surrounded, as we are, by something as beautiful as a tree—
which gave up its quest for the infinite long ago
and has learned to love sunlight.
Conifers on the Move: Triptych after Hieronymus Bosch
I can’t image Bosch had an eye
for trees, except maybe the lonely ones.
There, above St. Jerome at prayer, a tree
with a nest too big for anything.
We focus on the mercenary creatures:
saddled fish that mark the skies
and have all but abandoned
water, of course they have, Bosch himself
painted stagnant rivers.
He sold them to the backdrop.
And another geometric town, not yet
ravaged by mudslide or monsoon,
has time to contemplate
the deadly sins, the saints on crucifix.
But get this: conifers are moving north,
deciduous trees are migrating west,
chasing cold, chasing rain, respectively
but not uprooting;
though Bosch would have adored trees
lifting their roots just above the ground
like wedding dresses.
I’m afraid ours is a world too unkempt.
The trees whispering, we out…
Redwoods tagging themselves as “safe
in the California wildfires.”
And there is St. Jerome, look at him,
laid out in what appears to be
a white silk robe, one leg tantalizing
through the slit.
He puts all his declining weight on earth,
where it does not belong.
Bosch’s triptych doors have not been closed
in 500 years, and why should they be?
Rumor has it there are no saints left
to take their places, submit to punishment
simply because Christ was punished
then fly off into the grand staircase with a dove
in their mouths.
No, on earth
we have lost more than everything.
Museum of Natural History
Okay, so you took a little liberty with the name, or else
I have not been introduced to the same kind of history.
You should try again, go with: Clusterfuck of Nationalities
Museum, or Kids Screaming at Dinosaur Skeletons Museum,
then take me by the hand and lead me to the quiet pockets,
the rooms of minerals, obscure geodes, cathedrals that they are
I could find myself in a place of worship, leaning into placards,
studying the motherboard architecture of a silver meteorite.
There is even a photograph of the 1980s red Chevy Malibu
that lost its trunk to a meteorite in Peekskill, New York.
Imagine the insurance claim. You might have guessed by now
I would have paid to be there. Today, the Philae probe landed
on Comet 67P, docked itself like a polite ship in a Sci-fi flick.
It all seems like progress, I mean to say. But here you are
with your ancient replicas, asking me what I could want from
the future … and I don’t know, it feels good to see the weapons
we held in our hands now that robots take samples in space,
take photos of us left behind. Leave me here with the meteorites
you have. Don’t usher me out just yet.
Hannah Larrabee is the author of Murmuration (Seven Kitchens Press), selected as part of the Robin Becker Series, Sufjan, and Virgo (Finishing Line Press). She was chosen by NASA during a call for artists and invited to see the James Webb Space Telescope before it launches in 2021. Her JWST poems are featured online and were displayed at Goddard Space Center. She’s had work appear in: Lambda Literary Spotlight, Harpoon Review, Houseguest, Sinister Wisdom, Rock & Sling, and elsewhere. Hannah won the 2018 Massachusetts Poetry Festival contest and opened for headliners Kaveh Akbar and Nicole Sealey. hannahlarrabee.com.