Zakia Henderson-Brown

Three Poems


            A social construct


Only under pitch of night will spruce admit they envy earthworms

Their muscular mouths, complex perception, brilliant and flexible


Hearts. They bend their branches in almost-praise, dropping needles

That appear to the worms as deathtraps: cruel, minty stakes


From some peeved god­­­­. By the clarity of first light, their carcasses

Suggest an intimate arrangement between close friends, gone awry—




Braids fitted with beads argue the importance of parts to a whole,

Echoing a tinn­­y drum with every shake of the head. Yes, yes!


The heads seem to say. Or no, no, no from another angle. In either case,

Extensions are only about $100. Bark-colored skin brushed on


As an armor. But to determine blackface, first examine the lips—




The wild is a playpen for deception: rotted weeds take on

The fragrance of begonia, the thin sheet of ice conceals


A vexed lake; quicksand where the marsh puckers. In the forest

Of labyrinthine hearts, a nervous system folds in on itself &


Nature’s students come across a desperate slithering: worms fattened

& slowed by spruce sap, or                  a way to enrich the soil.



anthropology for never

we evolve, textbooks claim

like a slow-moving wave

from dust particle

to many-limbed animal

capable of anything

but survival. what did i see

there in the hospital bed

as the last horns sounded

in my brother’s chest?

a sigh of relief maybe

though pain is supposed to be

native as air to living things.

no, i saw him

moving toward an ever

i could not imagine


did tyrannosauruses

dream us up? another species

waiting to be alive then

dead then microscoped

until the next creatures

have a go. perhaps there were

no dreams, only cypress,

carnage, sun. limb over limb

in dusty plains for endless acres

and the sky doesn’t mention

an ever, only now now

now. you can never know,

only look back and note

small changes: what did his body,

its immaculate frailty,

tell us about the future,

sixty years too soon?


i once read

metastases had brains

"anthropology for never" page two

soft agents of no survival,

roaming the flesh for food:

no relief, no reward, just

particles latching on

to whatever, honestly,

in pure carnage.

certainly, machines

lent my brother

comfort; maybe

they slowly entered

his dreams: cypress-green

lines drowsing or

dancing, a species of living thing

native to the wall plug.

oxy for pain, sun for

malaise; radiation and cocktails

for tumors—any book

should claim history

has always been palliative.