It’s Like This I Told the Archangel; Fabulous Outrageous Termite Mounds; & Trees Line the Road Into


It’s        Like This     I Told the Archangel

                                                                     who can’t swim—

crazy     crowded     under great waters

two hours from shore and so misleading   dull vast gray    not even blue if you 

look from the boat   a great nothing really      except you could say

notable ships with notable       some questionable if not 

despicable captains      shattered     dissolved there   a century and decades ago

also     the unfamous    lost to     who-knows-where      plus storms      of course

a terrible reverie kicks in     wind     the stopped motor    as they laid out tea    

little cups of      little cakes      the earnest young marine biologists     their charts 

and maps     the possible end of it all     be careful    it’s       heating up      

month after month    roiling     therefore    queasy     but    

instantly as one goggles up      snorkels in and drops     OMG   

          boat found     

that down and down     Clownfish orange and white   Gobies’ tiny blazing
          yellow     the thick-lipped 

speckled Wrasse     Damselfish      Triggerfish     both    blue as the deepest bruise 

there’s a movie     like this      black and white to sudden      every color    you
          know it

you do    and grew up with it       as if longing is belonging       she closes 

her eyes in it     she recites   like a schoolgirl    like an anti-panic device set to
          go off      

even now, this century     there’s no place like . . .       out of straw    a brain then  
          an echoing 

emptiness turns     to a heart      fear     to a great fear remembered thus quieted      

a gleaming medal for it    but     Christ    so much is hard      hard to believe 

it gets harder       the simple point    great waters of the reef      go quiet 

when there’s bad news    coral fewer and fewer     it’s fine    a sign

triumphantly ordinary-fine when       creatures make noise      click and whine
          and crack open 

and shut    in such a spot we fanned out    our drift and drag    our how and why   

mountains     valleys deeper than       lost fabled cities    our habit in dream     

all manner    of thousands       graceful creatures    finned and clawed and aglow  
          unimagining themselves    

no thanks to     our dead language names for them      not a curtain      

but pulled back just      their just here thing     their crowd streams     beloved as      

any neighborhood    and crazy    a real racket     down there       eating       mating    

fighting     forgetting where  they put their glasses   (see?  You are paying
          attention. . .)     how  

tiniest fish      for a home in the reef    they need to    listen     they listen to
          swim-find it    

so much still      gorgeous       except      those places       of die-off     quiet gray-out   

too-warm-for-the-waving-brilliant-living      we swimmers overhead    mere
          shadows    falling there  

                                                                part of     that dark   that keeps dropping

I learned to read any      color as light    I told the Archangel who     

didn’t buy that either    light as schools of moving light      every corner we turned     
          such blues 

and yellows      dappled      and striped     though      yes and yes      no corners



Fabulous Outrageous Termite Mounds

multiplied by thousands 
upon thousands, shock then dumbfound 
all over the Outback. Their 6-foot 
palaces, castles, great manor houses 
settlers broke into, carved out 

to fire up for bread. 

But the Ancients before them put their
loved dead in there, all ritual 

and heartbreak, waiting for 

termites to forgive the intrusion, to seal up 
the mounds again. It took . . .
I don’t know how long but surely

a stitching, close work.

I won’t say kindness but just the thought of 
certain thoughts on auto-insect-do-gooder repeat is—

why not see gracious for gracious? Such lordly
spires for air and cooling and food. 
They live underground, some with wings. 

Really stupid, geez! the Archangel laughed out loud. 

I mean, who flies dirt’s dark and narrow? 
Why wings at all if you live down there? 

Those tiniest veils not nearly as nice as mine, he sang, 
their hindwing backloaded, in disguise. 



Trees Line the Road Into

the Outback, the usual 
Eucalyptus jerked every which way 
winter ache does, huge branches 
dropping bark, crooked strips as if 
the night before
a drug war, a fight, a drunken frenzy. 

All of it to the ground.

Beyond the paddocks the quarrels 
of only a few small birds. Not even cockatoos 
hung around in their noisy usual.

But tell me, I’d look grand
as a cockatoo, right?  

That was the Archangel in my ear, ad nauseum.
Want is want, whatever feathered shape it is.

At the rest-stop someone left 
a measured pile of stones, a meaning.


Marianne Boruch’s poetry collections include Bestiary Dark (Copper Canyon, 2021), which began with her 2019 Fulbright fellowship in Australia. She has also published four books of essays, including Sing by the Burying Ground (Northwestern, 2024), and a memoir, The Glimpse Traveler (Indiana University Press, 2011). Among her honors are a Kingsley-Tufts Award, Pushcart Prizes, a Guggenheim, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, and residencies in Budapest, at the Rockefeller Bellagio Center, and two national parks, and an earlier Fulbright in Edinburgh.