It began. Clouds parted because clouds part.
My hand doesn’t raise itself out of bed. There,
a dark pattern in sleep, a live-in boyfriend, a rhythm
to keep and keep the splitting sands. That word
when you look up a decade later to life’s inscrutable
trade, what happens to the sick mind habituated
through, the diminishing returns, the weakened
urge to live distinctly. Like the way sharp angles
affixed to an ox expedite and punish at once.
Something integral slumps in my skull as I
get to the bottom of the story, the sick mind
covered over with benefits, 401K, a fist of dollars
pushing slightly out of mulch. Under overhead
lights, nothing occurs to me. An animal, hunched
beneath lumber, bears her square teeth.
Natalie Eilbert is the author of Overland (Copper Canyon Press, 2023), her third poetry collection. A poet and journalist, Eilbert has received fellowships from the Wisconsin Institute of Creative Writing and the National Endowment for the Arts. Poems from Overland have been published in the New Yorker, POETRY, American Poetry Review, The Nation, and elsewhere. Her articles and essays have been published in Green Bay Press-Gazette, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, USA Today, Better Government Association, The Rumpus, Granta, The Lifted Brow, and elsewhere. Born and raised in New York, she lives in Wisconsin as the statewide mental health reporter for USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin.