"there's no through trail" —Han-Shan, translated by Gary Snyder

Two Poems by Sally Rosen Kindred

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.


Of Crows

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—
alone

with your new, ugly faith,
afraid of the moon
and too wet to burn.

 


Sally1

Sally Rosen Kindred is the author of two poetry books from Mayapple Press, No Eden (2011) and Book of Asters(2014). She has received two poetry awards from the Maryland State Arts Council, and her poems have appeared in Blackbird, Quarterly West, and Linebreak, and are forthcoming in The Adroit Journal. She teaches writing online for Johns Hopkins University CTY.