Butterfly House

Confused cloudywing, sleepy orange,
question mark and whirlabout,
dainty sulphur, cassius blue,
palamedes swallowtail.

One hundred and fifty species of butterfly
make their homes in Alabama
and I am trying to learn
the name of every single one
so that I know what to call

the things in my belly
that flutter their wings
every time you walk into the room.


I have never been able to pray
on my knees with my hands clasped,
never could make my spirit nod its head
when the preacher men roared
about gardens with their gates shut tight–
everywhere I looked
a rusty garden gate hung wide open:

I mean, sunrise crawls up over catbrier
deep behind my grandfather’s house,
out past the pile of moonshine bottles
and brown Clorox jugs asleep in the dirt,
a congregation of chipmunks
hold fellowship in the rusting belly
of a blue Ford older than Methuselah.

I learned all my church hymns
from the yellow-throated vireos
that warble in the high dark of Conecuh,
where fawn bones and old glass
gleam up out the pine needles,

once, I waded out where the lilies sway
in the slippery clear Cahaba,
tumbled under and gasped back up
washed cold to my bones,
the closest I ever came to baptism,

and the only perilous serpent
I ever came across on Oak Mountain
never said a thing about temptation
just warned me off with his rattle
and slithered down into the kudzu.

Anyway, I liked that story
about a man swallowed up
and spat back out in the end

so often I need to go down
the throat of an Alabama wild
stew awhile alone in its humid belly
and finally surface humbled
and a little more faithful.

— Adam Kamerer

Behind The Scenes

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I am calling you into my temple,
to the deep green forest,
where scattered light
gives way to shadow and moss.

Leave the asphalt and glass behind.
Leave the streetlights and sirens,
the busy bodies yelping
in the artificial light,
leave behind the hustling life,
the gristmill of the civilization grind.

Pad quiet between the trunks,
shrink beneath the ancient trees,
lope into the gloaming dark,
unhuman yourself with me,

let me teach you the religion
my body taught itself:

I am not a creature of reason.
I am not comfortable in my skin.

I am nature dreaming of itself,
an animal prayer, a hungry spirit:
I am a mouthful of howling,
I am teeth and I am blood,
I eat the earth until the earth eats me,

I know this is a ragged ritual,
this prayer to animaling,

this is not the first time
I have tried to explain
this shaggy holiness.

Go back if you want
but leave my wolf body
here on the dirt,

ring me with wildflowers
and river pebbles,
let the ants have me,

until my pelt is eaten up
and my bones bleach white in the air.

Enshrine me to my wild worship.

— Adam Kamerer

Behind The Scenes

Want to know the story behind this poem? Patrons who pledge $5/month or more get access to behind-the-scenes notes on my poems.

Beneath the Kudzu

After sixteen episodes
of true crime documentaries,
turn off the television
and then stretch your legs
and go for a walk in the woods.

Stride beside fallen timbers,
beside fern and poison sumac,
skirt the ridgeline
of a gully and a pause:
kudzu spills into a bowl
scooped from the earth.

Feel the shadows tug
your eye to the green hole.
Feel the shadows tug
your foot to the brink.
Teeter and catch yourself
peering for bodies and bone
beneath the kudzu.

Do not hurry past.
The kudzu wants you

to peer beneath it
and even if you do not
find the murdered bones
of a missing life,
you may find the home
of a coal skink
or a kingsnake

or you may find nothing

but your held breath
but your blood in your ears
but yourself
imagining your body
laid down beneath the kudzu.

Sevenling: Waterfalls

I want to take you to all my favorite waterfalls:
the two cascades of Multnomah, the trickle and basin
of Fall Hollow, Falling Rock’s downpour and cavern.

Let me love you with crush and spray,
with crayfish playing in shallows,
with sips of light filtered through limestone.

Climb with me; bathe with me; love me.

I Have Put The Red Wheelbarrow To Use

Since your leg is broken
and you cannot easily go out,
I have brought the garden
into your bedroom.

I have emptied your
chest of drawers of your
underwear and your shirts
and filled it with clean
black soil, with explosions
of yellow red chrysanthemums,
clustered bellflower,
stalks of bright snapdragon.

There are sunflowers
standing in the closet
where you hung your
summer dresses
(it was the only place
the sunflowers would fit.)

It has taken me hours
to cover the floor with
dark sweet earth and
fill the carpet with
fresh shoots of grass
(yes, I even brought
the green beetle,
the wriggler earthworm,
the polka-dot ladybug,
because I know
how you love them.)

Be careful with the
wisteria hanging over
the bed. It is tacked up
only precariously,
but it was a necessary
final touch.

This poem was originally published under the pen name Gabriel Gadfly.

Earth Heals Herself

After the rain passes,
lay out on the wet grass.
Feel your clothes soak:
seat of your pants,
back of your thighs,
shoulderblades pressed
into the damp earth.

Hold your palms over
the blades of grass
re-greening, newly sharp,
prickles of the ground
washed clean of the dust.
Breathe the scrubbed air,
forget smog haze and
runoff sheen, lay out
on the wet grass
and feel the Earth
healing herself.

This poem was originally published under the pen name Gabriel Gadfly.


The sand rabbit tells the desert cow:
I want to lie beside your open bones.
The rigid spurs of your joints
pressed against my fur.

Shelter for your sacrifice.

I’ll hide in the hollow
where your mind once dwelt
and sleep until the sun
quells his angry shine.

This poem was originally published under the pen name Gabriel Gadfly.

Companion Plants

I have picked up so many books
lately about compost and gardens,
about how seed take root,
about the systems of life:
insect and loam, vine and water,
aeration and mulch.

This morning, I told you my plans.

You asked me if I wanted to
plant flowers or fruit,
something delicious to look at
or something delicious to eat

and I decided, if you were a seed,
you would be both.
I would make for you a bed
of decadent soil, sweet earth,
and bathe you with clear water.
I would blanket you in winter,
tend your fresh seedlings
and your first green shoots
just to see you bloom in spring.

One of my books taught me
about companion plants:
species that flourish best
when grown together.
They shield each other
from wind and blight,
roots intermingled,
a nourishing symbiosis
that yields healthier growth
for both.

I’d like to plant myself
beside you and see
what kind of garden
we could become.

This poem was originally published under the pen name Gabriel Gadfly.