Simply to hold back the fraying stem, bud, scale, blur, wing, tooth,
eye-flecked water that will burn before the other signs give way,

earth-beaten, carved into the single root—your eyes now looking back
at my shelled sockets—shadow ships drowned out to carry their

own cargo stripped & haunted here—a search?—a harvest?—

laboring—the memory of river-water—blades of quick attention
led away—that battleground you fasten over you—your skull, your face

of fiber hearing it if you can listen far enough—
there is a continent before the gods, there is a door of bone

between— behind you now the field is opening its jaws
below the ridge—there is no hollowness through which this whispering

can fall—no peace-filled re-imagining—now it is yours, repaid,
a monument through which no birdcalls seep—

you have to see it here, the place reserved for craft, for prayer,
in which you pause unknowing so these pieces of the tree—

not life, not replication—grow around us, thickening, however
much we cut them back, the branches of black ivory, the leaves

that open elsewhere to descend, ungatherable, around another generation's
thirst for everything between itself & its own end—do not

come home, they say, begin again, take all the time that's left, take Africa.