Issue: Spring 2016
She Tells You a Story
You woke here, you don’t know why. The loam
is cold. Can’t remember these hard pines,
how old you are, when you got the basket.
And this woman at the fire? Your skirt is grieved
with needles. She bends to brush them from your shoes.
In the woods—you smell their heft: wet wings,
breath of moss and blue spruce.
Between crow-calls, the sky paws
her soot dress. You are hungry. She serves you
a nest, a cake in the twigs, a lie made of stars
and cinnamon. In the woods, but her voice
is a dark lake. You slip your fingers in. Once
she says, and the water moves, turns to a black river.
You taste your thumb: soft brine.
You start to remember being a woman—that body—
but her forehead is made of honey and her words
spill downstream. You close your eyes to follow:
Once there was a girl. You want to stay with her,
you want to swim. Her words are a crow made of rain.
They fall for you now
into rook waters. Once sends a boat of light
out through the trees toward a clearing
and into the yard that you’ll dream
and keep dreaming
until you can wake to it, a child again,
unafraid of feathers, skin.
Not a murder, but a pulse. Hunched and drumming,
twilight’s twig and filigree: silk sleeves
on the branch, and later
a rattle in the meadow’s
throat. Not a pulse,
but a vigor, barbs
muscling through the night grass, oiling the frost.
No, not barbs but an altar
where you’d never known to kneel:
consecration of feathers and bones
on a dim branch.
You could believe in thistle and birch
if your secret hands could meet, could once
come close enough for this.
Not an altar, not a bone
but a departure of crows—
onyx horns launched,
reeling their angry jazz
across the soot-bright sky,
and you here, featherless, unlit—
with your new, ugly faith,
afraid of the moon
and too wet to burn.