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Devon Miller-Duggan


Devon Miller-Duggan found herself with a rainy afternoon at the beach, a bag of children’s plastic ABC sandmolds, and a copy of Twyla Tharp’s book on creativity. Over the next year, 52 disorderly and proper abecedarians happened. She blames it on turning 60. Her book, Pinning the Bird to the Wall, was published by Tres Chicas Books in 2009. A chapbook, Neither Prayer, Nor Bird, was published by Finishing Line Press in 2013.

 Proper Abecedarian 3: Oranges

Abundance: an orange so fragrant it’s
blasphemy not to roll it in your hands until they’re pregnant with its oils; scent
crucial to your belief in senses. Or Christmas.
Deifying your own hands might mean everything comes back to Christmas, to
explaining the scent of oranges as the origin of your theology, the
First-Cause. It could just as easily have been the taste of butter, or light you called
God mazing its way through loblolly needles, rubbing the flaked bark,
holy as pushing needles in-and-out of fabric, the promise you made to read Anne Frank.

Infidel: one who uses a knife on an orange rather than
Just letting its pulp and oils gather beneath your nails before you
Ken the burst and acid of its flesh by reason of your tongue, that
Lathe with which you spindle the names of God.

Mantle your hands in any perfume that’ll mask the smell of mortality:
negation = or ≠ negotiation.
Omen = or ≠ open to interpolation, implication.
Polytheist = who cannot conclude whether God is kin, skin, pith, flesh, or seed.
Quill = verb = the winding of threads in order to weave. And to weave is to

reveal—there is a body beneath the cloth, a window behind the hanging—
sex embroidering the names and perfumes before,
twittering and grinding itself in and out of the fabric like it was god, or
unmanaging the Whole once oranges sweetened up,
very skin from very skin, very skin for very skin. Or
wind blowing that labyrinth-drunk light through those pines,
xenial and straining even as it found you,
years too early, well before oranges or angels, when all you wanted to build was
ziggurat after ziggurat of color, trying to reach.

Disorderly Abecedarian 9: Going

Unsaid. So much goes that way. Like a
quartet that can’t agree on music. Halfway through every piece they
elide the final notes. Like the
zipper on a body bag left open over one eye. Like
xaxsis, so that every line pushes into another dimension. Like
ontological profusion. Like four leaves saying “luck” because they’re rare,
your unsaid words fill your lungs. You wanted someone to make
beauty out of your life, and I tried. Now we slide
toward your going.

Doves nest in your head; you speak feathers instead of words,
vortices of confusion about what to do.
Love like this scratches away the surface of the heart,
has scratched you away from me, my mother
no longer. Both of us robbed. Both of us never planning to
join this procession. You
raise your hands to me asking me to pull you from quicksand.

Plain kindness is all I have left; plain
cause is no comfort. It
ill becomes us both, this laborious, slow
sway toward an end one can’t see, the other won’t.

Mother, all we go down into sand. See, my
father’s already gone.

Weather like this—all ash and frigid rain, nothing
green here except infection.
All we go down, all we go down,
kenning everything that loves us as we go.




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