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Genevieve Betts

Samsara: an elegy

A rhizome may be broken, shattered at a given spot, but it will start up again on one of its old lines or on new lines.
                                                                        -Deleuze and Guattari

1.  Clay was young and wrote
            When traveling
in the far western states
at an altitude from five thousand
to eight thousand feet,
the sagebrush rises
and valleys are decorated
with cedaring juniper
and piñon.


if you should chance to see a compact flock
of birds, it may well be
that you have come upon
a party of blue crows.

2.  Clay reflects in those crow-eyes,

his bluelight
bulbs and tubers—
multiple roots that branch
like couchgrass.

Those underground stems
arms at every inch,

loam mazes for the earth-
worm—cut in half
with a shovel—two
will travel double the soil.

-for Pandora

The instructions lie
behind my right ear:

a.  Thin rind
cut like avocado slice
is blood, but fades
         the shaded


and will be your guide,
though the stitches are removed.

b.  Travel only by the map
in your bones.

Of ruin
it is the longest lasting—

            fluted pillar
            of floating rib,

earthworms can travel the distance.

c. You may begin at any
peninsula of the body,


and follow straight
the street of belly,

a tightened drum
of scallop shell.

d.  You cannot know the span
of a light-source.

The synapse of a bulb
may at times flicker,

but is lost
at the tin
of a rattle.


1.  or clinical lycanthropy,
a condition where a person
believes themselves unhuman,
                        feral otherkin,
animal of batwing and skin and tail.

Though mostly mammal,
studies speak of one woman
transformed into a bee—
            thorax banded in honey-yellow,
            tongue like a spring,
            and smoky windowpane wings.

She must have considered the stinger—
            was it a fair trade, death
            for self-defense?

Her human presence couldn’t say no,
couldn’t touch that murky place of memory,
but only feel an escape of the little animal inside.

2.  Chuang Tzu contemplated
consciousness like this—
            if in our dream, we see
            a grass-yellow butterfly,
how do we know that it’s ours and not
the dream of the butterfly seeing us?

3.  In a daydream, we can be
in a metastable state
like the antique glass in a windowpane—

if unrotated,
the proteins will leave their place,
bubble and ooze and warp
until an escape hole can be made.

It’s a wonder our own proteins
don’t fizzle away, betray us
like carbonation.

Genevieve Betts’ poems and flash fiction pieces appear or are forthcoming in Poetry Quarterly, OVS Magazine, The 33rd Anthology, Quarter After Eight, Nano Fiction, 42opus, CHAIN, and MATTER, and her book reviews of poetry can be found in Western American Literature, Midwest Quarterly, and 42opus. Her manuscript, The Deafening, was a finalist for the ABZ First Book Award. She received her MFA from Arizona State University where she was a poetry editor for Hayden’s Ferry Review, and she currently teaches at Drexel University in Philadelphia.