“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/