Colin Cheney

Half Ourselves and Half Not

If you sleep the night inside someone, her cells,
saltwater-stained, fuse with yours like the blood of twins.


Apes in Mauritania grow stronger, Galileo tells us,
influenced by the sphere of angels.


Here, then—thumbnail sketches
for zoning changes along the riparian bank


of the species boundary, for chimera.
Like fiber optics, human nerves


lay along glassy bone & spinal veins of a fetal mouse
that will be drowned before ever waking.


A hen’s brain replaces a quail’s—nodding, cooing,
not understanding the change. Less human, less nature.


Less solace in these songs half-ourselves
& half-not. Did I wake you, my singing?


Here, the sphere of angels & here the sphere of sea.
Darwin, writing in his garden, remembers the sea


like some sleep he feared he’d never wake from.
If all men were dead then monkeys make men,


he noted for himself, &, almost as an aside—Men makes angels.
If my nerves were fed to an osprey, a finch,


could she still take wing? Rain
behind the bedroom blinds, I will wake, won’t I,


to your cells replacing mine, this cape lionness
liver, aorta of a garter snake, &, from a goat twisted


with an orb spider, milk boiled down to silk, gossamer
the structure of Bethlehem steel?


“Half Ourselves and Half Not” is from Here Be Monsters (University of Georgia Press, 2010).