“Selves are signs. Lives are thoughts. Semiotics is alive.
And the world is thereby animate.
‘We’ are not the only kind of ‘we’.”
—Eduardo Kohn, How Forests Think: Toward an Anthropology Beyond the Human


                    dear Animate:


We were talking about the difference between “kin” and “kindred” —

blood relation vs. connection not strictly defined by family. Kin can

narrow to claustrophobic ritual and feuds, while kinship intermingles

and crosses blood lines. How large is “family” or “kinship”?

Can kin include those outside our family, our species?

Who includes us, who do we include? trees with their oxygen

out-breath? bees? those who remain stateless, undocumented or illegal?

the “inanimate” — rocks and rivers? What happens to a culture

that narrows and nuclears its sense of family?


Cecelia Vicuña says “in her performance Theresa Cha would give

the audience white cards that read ‘distant relative’.

Rocks, water, fire are also our relatives.”


dear distant. dear relative


we are the shadows of

our animals




Do animals dream?

yes, science confirms animals dream

but do animals confirm science

does science dream

do I dream animals

am I their science

who dreamt my vestigial wings

my amphibian lungs

is evolution a dream

is phylogeny a dream

is God science

is my digital Telos

swift enough for ocelots

am I two Reverdy deer

on fevered freeway edge

is my mouth a moth in lamplight



is my mind a swarm of termites colliding with the beaks of blue jays

and my soul the mind of termites the sky between



wearing trees our brains shrouded with hawks buses roar

our caves fill with missiles our ears long to open

stroke the fur of our plant bodies



                              the tongue a meadow florescing



the animal is weary, the anima


packed into shipping containers



the soul is tired of people

saying who is not allowed

into heaven

the pitiable the poor

the unloved

the unwashed

the unshriven



all animals


moths, microbes

even radiant

Medusa jellyfish

the soul

is tired of this paradise

of downloading

and upgrading

and forwarding

the soul’s GIF

is tired of waving

its Sisyphus arms



                                        lie down soul and rest on the cool riverbed

water lapping the mud of minnows



                      the life of a word dark to itself



at the non-carceral edge of dreams

                  the tundra of a word, its unslaked thirst



if the soul

is this foreigner

hidden in me

if the soul is

innermost wind-

blown crowds

of leaves

if the soul

is placenta

a seed a cloud

in collusion with matter

if the soul is panic-stricken

if the soul is unfenced land

then spillways and forests

their velocities, their philosophies

our nervous system burning like a codex-sun

before and after the mysteries



black island of letters unvoiced      black statues of wild birds

untraceable black iris of black sight     black Iset of crowning night

black wash of stars        gone into the lens of leaving

gone into black fields receiving




The brightness of the animal

“embedded in the visible that hides them”
—Jean-Christophe Bailly


there was the flaring

of bodies in sun’s path the brightness

of an awkward and prehistoric body

with wide-sieved mouth, wider than Jerusalem

pelican folded like a dark arrow plunges

without hesitation into the abode of water

60,000 pelicans once sheltered in Gulf rookeries

now thousands of dead birds

the young emaciated and abandoned

to spreading sheen of oil

dense with dispersants

water silver-black as feldspar

waves like rapid eye movements

in waters fat and rancid

oil slick unfurls like silk

born pre-erased

blind crabs born

scrambled genetic

the young with

wings pressed back, useless

our industry, our tourists

sores on their skin

mouths wide open

bright words bright day

bright orchard bright water

bright boat bright cloud



do you swim with full intelligence

gleaned in intricacies of water

are you more or are you less sentient than whales

do you hear them laid out and skinned against the bow of oblivion

hunted and plundered then rendered

yet still curious about us



                              in search of the sublime

                                        many suburbanites

across time zones

                    all the tidepools

          hexagonal shapes like beehive cells

                    tarry sprawl

                            the awe spread and spread our fault line

        where you left me in cold fathomless




When rivers are granted personhood

do corporations dream in clear calm morning

threaded by contrails



if a corporation is a person but not a migrant ­­

does the corporation have a soul but not


the chicken I eat nor the river downstream

from the person of the corporation


if a corporation is a person does it wake up

in dread sometimes like a person does


and cannot get up out of its chair unassisted

when its legs no longer work so well its eyes no longer see


the corporation falls down goes to its first day of class

trembling with excitement and terror it gets depressed


gets a pink slip a tumor it is sad is it is compassionate

it lies on the ground ecstatic seeing a young pine tree


and one day it lies down on the ground and gives

its body back to the vast, undocumented microbial ferment


breaking down into particles of lyric



the sentence, a sentence   — a sentience



when rivers are granted personhood



we are mortal like glaciers



the body of the female corporation wears his red dress


pelt of remembrance to counter weaponized light



if trees


have no soul


then neither

do we






Do animals dream?
“Do Animals Dream?”, title of article by Liz Langley, National Geographic
“Iset/Isis: ‘friend of slaves…’
The brightness of the animal
“embedded in the visible… ” Jean-Christophe Bailly, The Animal Side
“the young emaciated …” refers to rookeries of brown pelicans on Raccoon Island in the Gulf after the BP oil spill  see National Geographic, 2010; “5 Years After BP Oil Spill, Effects Linger and Recovery is Slow”, Debbie Elliot, NPR, 2015
chemical diagram: PAHS or polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons from OSHA, Labor Department. PAHs like those traced to the Deepwater oil spill are known to be carcinogenic and disruptive to ecosystems: http://www.osha.gov/dts/sltc/methods/organic/org058/org058.html
When rivers are granted personhood
“the sentence, a sentence”:  Ingeborg Bachmann, Darkness Spoken
“when rivers are granted personhood”: see “The Legal Personality of Rivers”; EMA blog from http://www.emahumanrights.org/2019/01/16/the-legal-personality-of-rivers/