“ultraviolet” and “two if by sea”

Beth Bachmann


The bees can see the blood hosed off the flowers after a killing.

Look at me the way the bee does with its hundreds of eyes.

I’m human.

I hum.

After the flood, there was no ownership.

You could claim anything you wanted.

The dogs formed packs by mimicking each other’s open mouths.

Up and down the streets, we could hear them barking black and blue, black and blue.

Slip a knife under its collar and give it a name.

Some things you just can’t unsee.

two if by sea

I mistook the monster for an island and lit a fire on its back.

It swam.

I swam back to the boat.

The monster got a taste for fire, kept circling back, asking for a smoke.

His mother, the monster said, set his house on fire.

I said, your house is the sea.

Your house is a boat, he said.

My house is the sea, I said, brother.

The moon doesn’t light anything on fire.

It only throws off light.

Where you going, sister, so fast, he said.

I said, I’m looking for an island.

The sea’s making me sick with its constant pulling.

The moon’s a bitch like that, he said, blowing smoke out the top of his head.

All day, we were motherless like the sun.

No man is an island, the monster said, I’ll carry you, and opened its mouth. 

Beth Bachmann is a 2016 Guggenheim Fellow and the author of three books from the Pitt Poetry Series: Temper, winner of the AWP Donald Hall Prize and Kate Tufts Discovery Award, Do Not Rise, winner of the Poetry Society of America’s Alice Fay di Castagnola Award, and CEASE, winner of the VQR Emily Clark Balch Prize (Fall 2018). Recent work has appeared in Guernica and The New Yorker; new work is forthcoming in Poetry Magazine. Each fall, she serves as Writer in Residence in the MFA program at Vanderbilt University and divides the rest of her time between Nashville and New York City.