An Animal Learning

Nisha Atalie

                Nature wavers in between the divine and the material. Far from being
                something “natural” itself, nature hovers over things like a ghost.
                –Timothy Morton, Ecology without Nature
A boy is dead: people everywhere
                gathered to pull his body from
the water when the waves
                wouldn’t let him go.
Let me tell you about the dead cicadas
                everywhere I walk, not the husks
but the brown-grey bodies, thick
                parts facing up, eyes closed.
I went in and out of “nature” and
                cracked my body in half. Out
of me burst hundreds of sprouts,
                some fragile green
and others already starting to rot.
                I started treating the
sea like a god and now animals
                everywhere make eye contact.
I am going to slice this nectarine
                from Michigan and lick the juice
off my fingers. I am going to let
                the world harvest me limb
from limb, hair and honey
                and bone. I come back
from nature into flesh. Nothing surges
                like the water inside.
Nisha Atalie is a poet, editor, and doctoral student in literature at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She loves reading and writing about animals, ecology, and how our relationships to the nonhuman are shaped by colonialism. Her work has been published in Poem-A-Day, Blood Orange Review, Indianapolis Review, and elsewhere. Her work has received the Eileen Lannan Poetry prize and placed third for the 2022 Treehouse Climate Action Poem Prize from the Academy of American Poets.