Featured Poet | Nanette Lashuay

An Unexpected Heaven

I once went nose-to-nose with a snake, a red-specked garter
basking on the path, too content—it seemed—to flee at my approach.

I seized the invitation, bellied-down, and inched over on my elbows
to contemplate the rightness of a snake’s life.

Up close, silicate particles glitter star-size in the dust, many shining
shades of green compose the grass. Skimming shadows make me

quiver. Hot sun above, cool earth below bring enlightenment. I long
to slither, leaving swoops of joy and arcs of S’s for birds to chirp.

From this squat view, human concepts crumble. Meadow dissolves
to forest, a wild tangling of grasses hiding alien-eyed morsels who

flee my darting tongue. Mountains, wrinkling the planet’s flesh,
exist no longer. I call my world endless rock, tilting upward.

What an unexpected heaven this—of waves dashed to particles
of impossible luminosity, of bird song brimming from the primal chaos,

of consciousness free to sidle snakewise into every world we know—
and those we don’t yet.

Prelude to The Great Migration


Frieze of trees. Snow limning mountain peaks.
Ice clogging the flowlines of a river.

Shot taken from a drone.
Beware the bear there down below.

Beware the innocence of trees.
It is all so unlikely from above. Below

lurk roots and stones, centuries of litter:
leaves, old bones, decaying symbols.

Note the sun’s crown boldly glistening,
your hand’s trespass, a momentary flicker.

A patch of fallow soil, stained gold with clay,
awaits—day’s walk from there to nowhere.

The river’s braided veins, its wild lucidity.
Boulders wedged in a transparency of turquoise.

Beneath it all: the feral earth.

To survive here you must learn to leap
with fauns and dream like fishes.


Herds emptying the silence, caribou steaming,
streaming. Sharp hooves muddy riverbanks.

Soon humans will follow, dreaming of coolness,
room for their seedlings, a hinged peace.

Like the caribou they’ll feed on, they imagine
no future that does not beget them.

But you, reality’s child, soul old as rock, truth prickles
your skin. Fear dissolves in your stone chalice.

The past, the future winding through us, is us.
Dreams, visions, force that drives the flower, all better

field guides than reason. Use logic for your practical needs:
cropping, herding, cobbing buildings, making fire.


Our history is a swirl of dust, dispersing like a dream
whose meaning’s been denied, sending us tumbling

into a future we hope will claim us, name us other
than a failure, one more species to be heaped

with the neanderthal, dinosaur, and disappearing
snowy owl. We worship gods who look like us,

while, in our dreams, eagles gasp and tree roots grieve.
Yet, somehow, the ancient fuse still writhes within.


Soon the great migration will begin. Arise and go.
Build a cabin in the snow; await the coming god.

Hiking Pinnacles

Buckbrush and manzanita, scraggly juniper.
Coyote scat marks the trail. Mountain so quiet,
you can hear a bird winging.

Where are you, my friend?

A gonnabehot, fly-buzzing morning;
blue-steeped sky will fade to white later on.
Coyote, slouched-butt and scrofulous,
walked this way before me. His scat
is twisted with fur.

Coyote knows.

Switchbacks, over epic slabs of granite,
zigzag skyward. A tiny outcrop startles me
by moving. Stellar jay in profile on a boulder—
Bird Mt. Rushmore.

Coyote knows the secret.

Climb higher. Coarse granite gives way
to sharp lava, wild tumblings of matter
bellowing into spires, crags, talus heaps.
The pattern’s in the rhythm.

Stop for lunch.
A curved rock amphitheater, a shell-shaped
indentation in the dust. Comfortable enough.
Slab of rhyolite poised above my head.
I eat my sandwich unconcerned.
Death hovers. This I know.

Some small creature, hungering
for sunlight, pokes his head out of a hole.
Coyote leaps. Pounces.
……Broken-off squeal,
………a crunching noise,
no remorse in his reddening grin.

The love at the heart of things!

Bodies tangling in and through
alimentary tract, fire, soil. We are
wind-spawn and evaporite,
biology puddling into chemistry,
physics evanescing.

The truth is euphoric:
nowhere is where we’re going.

Coyote knows. Rest easy, friend.
It can’t be other than it is.



Nanette Lashuay was a community health organizer for low-wage workers in East Oakland, an anti-war activist, and an assistant professor at the University of California, San Francisco. After several volunteer stints as a wildlife researcher in Kenya, she moved to Africa in 2007 and now lives in Zanzibar, Tanzania with her husband and two lovely stepdaughters whose native land it is. Her fiction has appeared in The Kenyon Review.