Poems

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From Becoming Bone

“Land-Locked”

Turning her back on brawling
boys, unemptied chamber pots,
the bolted bedroom door, she
dips her pen in gullible ink:

Have patience; here are flowers and songs of birds,
Beauty and fragrance, wealth of sound and sight,
All summer’s glory thine from morn till night,
And life too full of joy for uttered words.

She learns to lie, calls it her “little poem.”
They pay ten dollars, and she recalls
how last summer Mrs. Bliven said no one
is paid for making a string of shells.

Spirit

Later they will say I died
like Goethe,
asking for light.
I did ask Minna to pull

the curtain so that light
would wake me,
but my last request
was a soft boiled egg,

which they will edit
out of the myth.
I want to tell them
to leave the egg in,

to let it sit there,
in its wooden cup–
at the center of a darkening
room, the gleam

of bone-white shell.

From Nest of Thistles

Song

At night my mother is the washerwoman
who bleaches the clouds, and my father

the baker who kneads and shapes the hills,
my sister the fiddler for the waves’ dance,

and my lost brother the carpenter who cobbles
a bed for the sun, a chair for the moon.

I hear them at their work, and my dreams
are ribbons that unravel and race to reach

them. The moon’s sorrow undoes the day.
The chatter of sparrows undoes the night.

Bronze Age

South Ulist, 1500 BCE

Sew my eyes shut, dip me in peat, and let my hair
still grow. Let the seeds in my intestine rest
undigested, ready to begin again. Watch nails
curve long and dangerous. See breasts shrivel.
I have no vanity to slow the process down.
Pickle me in salt like herring. Dry me in wind
or fire. Keep me for five hundred years. Prop
me in your sacred place, lay mushroom, oats,
and wine at my black feet. I’ll tell you nothing.
Touch my tough skin. Play me your pipes. Chant
me the songs of loss and desire, what wounds
and heals, the braiding and the combing. Place
the jet tenderly round my thin neck, wrap me
in fern and deerskin. Lower me into the stone
house whose six stout walls give shelter. Plunge
me into silence: it has waited so long it has
grown tired of waiting. Try not to find me.

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