MITCHELL JACOBS Soft-Bodied Animals Leave Few Traces

in the fossil record. Millennia of sea anemones
Rainlost, their ghost lineages as branched
Rainas their tender, unkeepable bodies.
We remember bone, tooth, shell,

Rainchitinous exoskeleton. The hard parts.
RainWhatever’s stiff enough to displace mud.
A spine’s archipelago. I bend over
Rainin this Utah heat, feeling the earth’s vendetta

Rainagainst flesh, which it punishes
and punishes then decomposes.
RainI unstrap my tools, trowel or brush,
Rainto use as the rock dictates.

I had imagined grief to be the trilobite,
Rainmany-segmented and ubiquitous.
RainExtinction’s logo. They are shrines
from the tough earth to its fierce loves

Rainmore mineral than animal.
RainWhere is the tilde of an earthworm
that tilled the soil with its entire innards?
RainA squid’s roving, buoyant eyeball?

RainThe earth will save my hunched skeleton
but not the tapeworm that squirms inside me
Rainof its own volition: delicate ribbon
Rainas long and tangled as hunger. Or joy.

Mitchell Jacobs lives in Vientiane and teaches English at the National University of Laos. His work appears in journals such as Gulf Coast, Indiana Review, Missouri Review, New Ohio Review, and Ninth Letter.

Cover image: Photo by Wolfgang Hasselmann