Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.
–Matthew 23:24

Sudden as the swoop of a swallow that lifts
from grass at once: a flash
of white under-feathers in sun—
follow its path, watch the landing
and scribble down the thumping
in your throat—find where swallow

began: its tiny muscles of flight
that link in our mouths to Philomel,
pufferfish, blood of Christ.
Not the sugar-fed metaphor
sipped from a goblet, no,
metal and salt, tasted from the brow.

Fact is you swallow the lure,
hook and cackle—projected self,
protected—and learn your part
so well words rise from the low gullet
before you can wish them off.

A tire bobs near where water
disappears under limestone,
swallowed by earth, and Job
stands next to a pit he can’t
see the bottom of. He tried
to force the camel down:

fur, femur, and teeth. And the drunks
in your family—they thought
swallowing seven mugs a night
was a way to forget; they forgot
each ounce enters the blood,
each sip leaves evidence.

Then there is the Black Swallower
prowling for fish twice
its size, which it downs by opening
a hinge and pulling the prey
in with teeth. It swallows
to cause its own splitting.


Appeared originally in Blackbird.