They come early for us.
Skinny, stressed women, the flame
that burns twice bright.
My sister calls them honey badgers.
On the subway, wrapped in winter wools,
the sudden fever; a sharp descent
to the hothouse inside
where vines and fungi grow:
Pink early flower, Scrambling Clematis.
Wood Ear, Inky Pot, Stinkhorn.
I trust the hypothalamus to mediate
body and brain. Like city apartments in winter,
the heat overcompensates for chill.
Here’s a house full of bees.
Do you think the honey badger cares?
Like riding a wave, the rhythm like labor,
which taught me to surrender to pain.
I loosen my scarf, wonder if it’s visible.
Her face is so red, a student said aloud,
as if I couldn’t hear or it didn’t matter.
I close my eyes and wait, breathe
into all that dies or rots in musty
ferments. Let it go, let it go.
Honey Badger don’t give a shit.
Caitlin Grace McDonnell was a New York Times Fellow in poetry at NYU and has received fellowships from Yaddo, Blue Mountain Center and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. Her poems and essays have been published widely, most recently in Salon, and she has two published books of poems, Dreaming the Tree (belladonna 2003) and Looking for Small Animals (2012). Currently, she’s an English teacher and lives in Brooklyn with her six-year-old daughter, Kaya Hope.