December 27, 2022

Fox Banquet: the path, memory, grasses

By Qayyum Johnson

Suiko Betsy McCall, Day 54/100, 2022

Fox Banquet: the path

you start out 
& soon know
that you are lost

you know you cannot go back
because there was no trail you followed

you were running blind mostly
& looking behind you
for pursuers
& ahead to define what you pursued

now lost, you begin to look in a wide-angle way
at the hang & bent of limbs & tangle, 
how gullies shadow-carve light
& the host of evidence surrounding you

a path responds to attention 
through glowing attraction:
taking care with each thing, you sense 
where what belongs & for whom
& the story of the forest begins to really shine

you go into the livingness of it
moving aside deadfall, pruning
suckerbrush, prickerflare & pineweb

you slow to read the stickglisten slimestories
& insodoing more story limns
the understory of mosssoft & humustuft

there is an invitation to elegance
embossed in all bodies

a fox sees this from just inside—
careworn mask witness
to your devotion to the path
& the increased singing of the path
& your lightening dusk dance in gathering dark
as you give yourself freely
a way

Fox Banquet: memory

for fox
shitting is high-class calligraphy

it speaks to the origins of things
gut-level systems thinking

they are in direct contact 
with the billions of cells 
in all the right muscles
in that sweet script-making
endzone: the anus

fox remembers one time . . .
fox remembers all the times . . .

disintegration of the cursive mementos
is part of the bone & tail piece:
slouching shoulders on what were taut lines,
then the mycelium fur emerges—
so much like a baby fox’s first whiskers—
then the work of a life essentially disappears

fox remembers doing it on a picnic table in the capital
& the time through a dog door on the Confederate welcome mat

fox are releasing as much as they can
for all of us, all the time

fox brush their teeth with neem
fox wash their socks in moonlight
but fox never wipe their asses

they are clean as clams—
with a far better memory
for who laid down what
where & when

why things happen
is why we are trying
to clean up our shit

Fox Banquet: grasses

on the way
there was grass

lots of grass

& all manner of things upon it
including me
& there were herds of others
& hosts of others living on the herds
tens of billions hosted on tens of thousands herding

grasses taught the first people to count
rasping rattling & nestling one another
in youth & in death
grass plucks a string
so to speak
slipping a zero-ring upon
an abacus within an umbel
thus counting

like stars turning on the sky dial
vision dazzles with growth & decay

though in some places no one counts—
counting isn’t done—
which is a good thing, sometimes,
but there are also no grasses there
which is a sadness to try to imagine

especially when you’re on the way
passing sailor grins betwixt & between you
& anticipation of the reunion
is what you’ve been counting on 
your whole herded & hosted
tepid & toasted
creaking & coasted
milquetoast & boasted
hopelessly grass-filled life

To view the original line breaks, these poems are best read from your desktop.


Qayyum Johnson worked for the post office while a carpenter’s apprentice after being a farmer for twelve years in a Zen temple on traditional Coast Miwok earth. His writing has appeared in the Inverness Almanac and The New Farmer’s Almanac. Since 2018 he has been a director of the Art Monastery where he conducts studies in regenerative imagining, attention/intention and the art of giving up self-cherishing.