Irina Teveleva

Two poems by Irina Teveleva


Certain fish swim through the dark
like us, only their eyes flashing.

Binary languages of fireflies
and electric eels.

Google asks if I’d like to
“meet a white-tailed deer up close,”

and I do want your head to turn
towards me, and see your ears lift.

I do pet your corrugated antlers
and touch your pebble-stone hide.

So thrown this eyeful
of bright light, I’m quiet.

Will you be with me in my kitchen?
Lick the salt from my palm.


I am past where the road signs say,
“Buckle up, buttercup.”

Everything here dries out in winter:
cornflowers turn corduroy,
petals to wood-shavings;
fawn brown, ash gray,
and metallic blue.

Here, the Rust Belt city
dissolves into grasses,
copper and brass-colored,
greased with dew.

Grasses rustle, gold-flecked
with sleep; they are soaked
in sky, sodden with it.

I am like a helicopter seed set spinning.

In headlong flight, a white-tailed deer
bounds down the road sparsely.

“An overgrown pasture …
burned, disked, and planted with seeds
of prairie grasses and wildflowers.”

I am less like the deer
than I am like this field
where the grass has bent.

“This prairie is managed with controlled burns
… which simulate natural fires.”

Where the light describes
the grasses as “soul-stirring,”
I imagine a whirlpool:
seedpods, tufts of cottongrass.

The roots of the grasses reach down
like the long tails of jellyfish.

The flowers are coral and sponge;
oceanic seed-husks,
seedpods like sea urchins.

A feeling of being wind-whetted –

I want a mind like a field of grasses:

a “sweeping view,” a hawk overhead,
weather and wildflowers and mud
on the ground, the sound of wind
through the field like footsteps.

Maybe I am just another common yellowthroat
singing “witchity-witchity-
witchity-witch” with a mind full of seeds;
a bird at home here.

“What do you know about yourself?”
asks the afterthought.

Open or crushed, this feeling;
something sharp
and spiky, rising above the grass.

IRINA TEVELEVA holds an MFA in from Washington University in St. Louis, where she received the Dorothy Negri Prize for best writing on animals, and was an editorial intern for Dorothy, a publishing project. Her writing is forthcoming in DIAGRAM. She was born in Moscow and now lives in Chicago.