Haley Wooning




we, clouded with error

create from the language of breath


an earth, murked without

wisdom but the reaching

of so many hands – they curl,

emptied between each finger,

and even the dirt does not

stay for long


what else have we failed? The human

forest, mutilated and forgettable as

the waters we stare into, briefly,

through childhood.


    attempting to pin something

like an insect

                                to memory


but they slip, all things slip

and I do not even know to

grab them

    from the soil



so they rot there, lonely as I – as we

who disparage and lose all are  –


the roots scrap over our

        absence, we are eaten for love


the wolves are tamed

there is no more son


— what were you saying?





it has been so long, Eros

if you came here now, would I recognize you?


the bells withdraw into dawn like so many stars wilting over the

dissection of flowers, the splintering spirit, the despairing disguise


here marks the lover’s dying gaze – who could turn from this horror?

many times it happened, gain and loss, the inevitable exchange

of isolation


and so it will continue, like the crunching of bones beneath a dragon’s

great feet, the dead smell of sun on woodlands, the absent tenderness


of a ship’s stiff sail pulled on by no wind, so sitting, listless and

maimed by its own still reflection, erroneous as my breathing


the dream wilts below the heat of its chainmail, with the skull

removed, the flux that flows is like that of a once-hidden wound


I wait and wait, never truly dispelling my want for someone to look

in and see, but acceptance, pulsing somewhere, is strange to me


and only doubts are left to accumulate – do the dead tire of lilies?

passions, various, leave me; against my wishes, the light was never kind


but somewhere, the sea churns, the earth, like a beast, slinks onward

along the great plummeting brow of an indifferent universe and


all my bundled hopes, neat as the folded wings of an unsent letter,

root their day-blanched thoughts to dirt and carry away rumors

of me, somewhere, to be known






april comes, her arms molded with the longings of magnolia

the animal secludes itself, a single throat, and so whispers into

the dark: I have witnessed eternity


where I have gone, I have gone alone – there is no one to cast

pity on the stony palm of all my errors or know how each smudge of

dusk expands itself like a heart for nothing


no dreams, no agelessness, nothing for the world to remember –

when did I ever cast a shadow? when did I know a thing that did

not prove itself to be false? the footsteps, love’s lure


that embittered itself – again and again – on the landscape of a window

never looking out; this is my singular belonging, this room, this color

the ghosts that come and go, watching me flail from life to life


the woods speak, the sky’s infinite armament disarms itself,

the earth is sickened with what the impossible seems to promise

spring, you come,


but my Eye is shut






the constellations, weary with what they’ve seen

collapse in the pulse of all

                                                                that is not here


dark, the cloven hoof

black the spread of crocus like disease


I have been past

what you hear in the final chamber


I know the hollow throat of a door

that can only rasp itself



there are riddles in the ribbon that yawns

itself into puddles of sunlight on the floor,

each animal despairs of them


the traps are set, the ankle is weak

where I go I go alone and into

every disclosure


pale peony, I


by the sound

of rain


what comes after

sorrow? you leaf through

me like an

animal body


I burn yellow with the

hot, restless empire

of eternity, each grief


disembodied, how

to whittle out from

the paper souls a

hope for more?






somewhere, I am loved but the

black leaves pool in and cloud the promise


it is a form of suffering: the body’s defacement

into armor, the unsent letters piled on the field

like so many dead


geese pushing out from the marsh into

lands forever beyond me


like grief, the season burns, I have been theft

of a name easily called or remembered                   the rot

of intimacy,

                                do you remember the spires we touched

while the moon still bred tenderness?


like all else, I question

the fruits I carry home


they slip from my arms and

I grow old





Haley Wooning lives in California where she teaches Middle and High School English classes. Her collection of poetry, Mothmouth, was published by Spuyten Duyvil.