Go back one moment, to the first line of this poem.
Go back two moments, past the first line of this poem.
Five moments, breathing in
the smell of smoke, somewhere a fire,
your finger clasped in a book. A breeze
turns like a voice beside you,
about to read this poem
or write it.
Go back one hour.
You had your head in your hands,
or a child’s fragile head was in your hands,
his tears pooling salt in your palm.
Or else your were happy, smiling at scraps
of overheard conversation, a bar joke,
a horse and a Rabbi, anything.
Go back one day.
It was raining, mud-grey all around you,
or it was hot, the sun a harsh blur bearing
into your bones as soon as you stepped
outside, sweat in your shoes,
or it was different.
Go back one year.
You were walking through cracked leaves
in a gutter, listening to their knucklebone rattle,
or you were standing behind a girl
in the supermarket, watching the crane
of her neck slip smooth like water
as she thumbed a magazine,
or you were other places.
Go back five. You were sitting
on a rough stone step, wrapping a strand
of hair back around two fingers as you always
do when you want to write, trying to remember
the first time you saw crows, and knew their names,
or you were standing behind a door, watching your wife
pour water on the baby in a white bathroom sink,
or you were other things.
Go back to the first time you saw crows,
and knew them by their burnt metal colors.
Go back to the first dream of falling,
jerking awake, some truth suddenly
clear for a cold long breath.
Go back to the first dream
in which you saw yourself, first
dream of music where it shouldn’t be,
in the street, in your chest, your slapped
skin and singing joints, first dream
of wolves, first dream of fire, first
dream screaming, first dream
in which you realized anyone could fit
into anyone else’s body.
Go back to the first time you heard crows,
and knew them by their scratched glass voices.
Go back to the first girl you ever loved,
first boy you ever loved.
Go back to the first time you felt naked,
first cigarette, the hot half-breath
of it, first car crash and house-burning,
first bad haircut, first good haircut,
first dirty word or thought, and how
great it was to say or think, first black eye
or broken bone, first time you tasted your own
blood, first time you saw your own blood,
the first time you knew that all animals die.
Go back until you find
the first thing, the first thought, the first bright
plume and flash that became a moment.
You’re chasing grasshoppers
through tall brown grass, a dust-filled wind
on all sides of you. They clasp the dry stalks,
swaying in sunlight and waiting for you to touch
the green paper of their wings
before they fly.
You’re held against the pale
moon of a breast, shadows spilling
out behind the curve. A huge finger
dots the tip of your nose
with a poke.
Go back to the brink of the first thing
Go back into that last brief firelight
that makes shapes on cave walls,
your cheeks wavering, then crawl,
slither along the broken floor. Find
a place where the darkness hems.
Pull yourself into the black all around you.
Go back until one side of your body is light,
and one side of your body is dark.
Go back until all of you is dark.
(*Self- Hypnosis was first published in The Coachella Review and is included in Sassafras via a request from the editor.)
Micah Chatterton’s poetry and prose has appeared in a number of online and print journals, including Kindred Magazine, Slice, and Coachella Review. His work is also anthologized in The Cancer Poetry Project 2 (Thasora Books, 2013) and Best New Poets 2013 (University of Virginia Press, 2013). Micah earned his M.F.A. in Creative Writing and Writing for the Performing Arts from the University of California, Riverside. He now works as the jolly librarian of a Visual and Performing Arts Academy in Southern California.