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Sarah Giragosian



The [American bald eagles’]…cartwheel display or death spiral…is chief among their spectacular courtship rituals…The two soar up to high altitude, lock talons, and tumble and cartwheel toward Earth. They let go before reaching the ground—except when they don’t.

-Patricia Edmonds, National Geographic


Suppose that to marry is to defy death talon to talon,

       to promise to learn together the art

              of freefalling as mutual deference.


Suppose the law decrees your desire

        unruly, your bodies sylphs

             or outlaws, but call it sacrifice

                        or symbiosis, you will be one.


Suppose that—

   despite cartwheeling down

       an updraft of air to the upsurging details

below: (skyscraper,

                                 factory, tree, tree

car, car, car—),

                                   you study only the pale

                      cream moons of her eyes

                                                 stricken below their hood,

              cincture of her wingspan, wind-riffled,

& the muscly clutch

              of her tendons sounding blood.


Suppose that just before pavement

          hits your skulls, there is the ripening

of a moment, a toehold in grace,

                    when you both untangle,


roll out of your death dance,

        & fall upwards, in thrall of sky,

            backdrop of brambles, scrim of tree-

                 tops.  Suppose catastrophe’s averted


for the moment, but always you’ll be

                   on the cusp of it. She, the thermals,

& the warming skies are all

         you can be sure of. You’ll preen

on the moon if you must.




I can almost remember my claws,

                                      incurved like an eagle’s,

my dorsal scales and tail

                            like a lash, my prehistoric body

                                          outfitted like medieval weaponry.

I didn’t have a name then for myself

                                          or for the choke of boulders where I sunned.

I didn’t have a name then for sun:

                         sussuration of warmth at dawn

                                       that grew louder each hour

until—by the thrumming

                        of my blood—

I felt the sun’s call in my muscles,

                        in my re-activated heart.

                                   Each noon, pulsating fire

my body a darkening leather

                            (as practical a conductor as copper),

I set out past the tuff, sword-sharp,

                            and plunged off the cliff’s edge

                                          to return through an invisible door

back to the sea.

                           I didn’t have a name then for sea:

thraw of wave and cutting chill

                          or for the hunger that urged me on

                                      to seafloors carpeted with algae.

I grazed with fervor

                            then in anguish if I lingered

too long in the cold.

                            I can almost remember the return:

                                          back past the waves tossing ice

splinters into my back,

                          and past the sharks that prowled

counterclockwise above, and back to scale

                          the sheer edge of the island.

                                       I can go back and back and back,

and each time I pass through the thinnest thread

                            of a spider’s web; it is the twitch you trace

for an instant on my face.

                           You doubt me?

                                        This is not dreamed up.

                            This is the glossary at the end of your first primer.



               how many times have the worms,

browsing through leaves and broken-down bones,

                                                            ingested my cells?

                              I am alive, but so close to humus,

                                          easy with the ancient process

of living, of dying.

                           We all have an instinct for expiring,

just as our bodies filter blood without a flinch

and the liver’s ablution is as perfect

                                                    as the brook

that runs bloodstream-

                                      like through the forest.

When the time comes, call off

             the endoscopes and probes:

like the theater of a thunderstorm,

                        a wild conga dance up the spine,

or like the smart athleticism

of some kinds of silence.

All I know for sure

                        is that I will be loaned out

                                                            to some other I.

-from The Death Spiral (Black Lawrence Press, 2020), selected by Fall 2022 Guest Editor, Michael Walsh 

Sarah Giragosian is a poet and critic living in Schenectady, NY. She is the author of the poetry collections The Death Spiral and Queer Fish. Her poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in such journals as The Offing, Ecotone, Tin House, Cosmonaut's Avenue and Denver Quarterly, among others. She teaches in the department of Writing and Critical Inquiry at the University at Albany-SUNY.

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