you know there must be sound
when you rub your thumb and finger but
it’s like the sound a germ makes.
Microscopic. that’s the kind of scrap
we’re piecing into our days: loosed ribbon
of the present tense, household debris, radio
programs you saved to listen with me, secret
circuit of our small, warm animal.
This softest coin, uncountable. Mirrored
moonbrow, moonface, something we’ll say
we don’t notice. Meaning, anyway, a cache
of dry leaves, blowing.
I’d like to examine you, tend the red penny
on your cheek: splatter burn from the night
we fried plantains. I guess I’m the cared-for
canary, I’ll sing out when there’s no more
air--that’s my one job. But I’d like to
carry you up the stairs, draw you a scented
bath. Feed you persimmons, tea, a slice of bread.
Your eyes slant down when you wrap my foot
in gauze. It’s easy, you say, but you look
away. Not from my wounds, but from me.
Folded inside the word is the wood. Tree totems, patch of earth, bird sound. Nothing is quieter than a wild place in our chests. The word for “air” in an avian language. The fir needle’s fresher wick pulling blood to the surface of the hour. Our betrayers grown into the scenery, taut against the skin. Some tithe with grasses, the pinecones piling up like drifts of dry snow. Some swim in the colder water, falling on rocks, picking reeds apart. Redwoods ring and gnats swarm and the deep lakes go dark. We’ll all come to concluding phrases, full of river-washed stones, full of soft moss. Forever bound to our bodies. Which falter, which spring up fern-laden groves, which flower and fail.
You creep through the air, a voice calling my name
in this dimmer winter where keels freeze to swells
I was lost in the delicacy of your warning, at sea.
Held myself against the roll of your tongue,
the door open like a mouth and the air falling
through more air, a hole in the light—
You carry each pinprick of rain and lay
me in fragments on the counterpane,
you circle the room, a quieting crow.
The window slices absence into segments
the door slaps the side of the house
and I’m ankle deep in clouds.
The Woman in White
Hung a piece of white flag from the shoulder. Clump of grass sprung under a pointed boot, creamy and spattered with wet road. The white white ankle, the bandaged knee. You kissed the letters of a tomb. Error in a cloudy language, a red warning someone wrote across the sky, folded into a pocket square, left fluttering in a splintered post. There was a light rain in a churchyard. The moon a blue smudge on a soft black cloth. Locked away they grow wild and anxious. At the crossroads, a long story, half-told. She was a tall woman dressed like a little girl. Some say patient, some ghost. Landscape that refuses to forget.
Hillary Gravendyk (March 1, 1979 - May 10, 2014) was an Assistant Professor of English at Pomona College, where she taught American poetry. Her poetry has most recently appeared in Lana Turner, Sugar House Review, and Like Starlings. She was the author of Harm (Omnidawn, 2012) and The Naturalist (Achiote, 2008). She received fellowships from Vermont Studio Center and the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley, and was working on a manuscript tentatively titled Understory. She lived in the Southland.
the Tuesday poem is curated by rob mclennan