Fluorescent Mammals

What else would happen
to tawny down under blacklight
except colorize, tie dye, 
and astound? 

Elysian fields gotta bloom
somewhere. Except to say
that humans made Elysium up,
sending our measly derricks 
plumb down— 
and springhares invented this:
secret libraries erected
in open air, paper-marbled
volumes spiraled sky high
from ground to 
whiskered cornice. 

My life had stood a pastoral
poem green and pristine.
Undiscovered glens 
waiting for a hippie
with a tab to find them
or a medicine woman 
with mortar and pestle
to grind them.

Here I am, a child of the ‘80s
just biding One Day at a Time,
waiting for Schneider,
my building’s hapless super,
to show up sheepishly
wielding the ultimate boon:
one bulb of black light. 

Meanwhile, springhares wear
Jupiter’s clouds as hidden
skin and platypuses
have settled in, gliding past 
permission and pictures.
They’re out here living—
disco ball dancing 
to music subdermal, 
platypussing through
midnight water, 
emerging beaded in
flamboyant kit. 

River-glittered Janus,
dancer at a rave, she
knows it’s last call,
boogies on her plot,
bucks up her bill,
and shoots her shot.
I want to go
with her. 

I want to go.
To a place where what
swirls beneath
our surface
is only: 
                         B	E	T	T	E	R
nothing other than fuck it—
let’s be beautiful in this tangle
of roots together. 

In darkness, I watch
her bright body streak, 
course, and dart.

Her expression flickers.
I’m a mirror.
What’s here is there,
within, without.

Whether we’re
is an absurd question.
Head to toe, we’re animals
bodypainted in poetry
selfsame coats.


L.J. Sysko’s work has appeared/is forthcoming in Ploughshares, BEST NEW POETS, Radar, Limp Wrist, SWWIM Every Day, and Painted Bride Quarterly, among others. BATTLEDORE, poems of early motherhood, was published as a chapbook in 2017 (Finishing Line Press). A 2022 Palm Beach Poetry Festival Thomas Lux Scholar, Sysko has been honored with both Virginia Center for Creative Arts and Delaware Division of the Arts Fellowships; her poetry has twice been shortlisted for the Fish Publishing Prize, judged by Billy Collins, and has earned finalist recognition from Marsh Hawk Press and The Pinch, among others. She is a reader for The Common and a Delaware State Arts Council board member; she can be found online at ljsysko.com.