Today I look for losts: dark lips and a bright mouth,
the wet neck of a loon I cradled once, in my hand –
a poem. You now, borders away, dulling carrots with a blunt knife,
wooden handle, wood of the counter, everything deep
and warm and by hand. You already know (perhaps)
what it means to stand among green and have nothing
but the dedication of hands. Raise the earth, only, let it
settle again; nothing grows from pressured loam.
Can wisdoms like these not navigate rooms, oceans, without
abandoning some self? They open and release
like painted nesting dolls, only the smallest rolling ashore,
a little red twist in the face like rhubarb.
What to give when you are not with me. I watch the housecats
milk sun from the cushions, underestimate the artlessness
of decay, how even in dream we already become memory,
peripheral and dark as we move into sleep and further.
But I believe in prayer as in what you have missed:
there are whales in New York and no one asks
what brought them, their throats like furrowed fields
the size of schooners, the eyes reflective as cities.
Consider the phrase heart in the right place – a destination.
sway a little with the singing.
if not for fire
then for its angels:
fruit flies tonight,
hot ash and hollyhock
behind the moon tonight,
curtained by carp ribs
all for the bleaching.
what constellations of gristle,
each a spindly mobile
for my stork-boned baby.
I dip him in the clean
white hull of the sink,
learn him that communion
is a tepid-born thing
of the belly, yet still
and soft as pear skin
settling in the throat.
love’s a God-given
water as rock
water as the vacant tomb
mine is the bitter stone’s throw.
mine is the witness.
in the pond tonight,
hounds pacing in the dull
mud of the banks tonight –
a chase as empty as fire,
the day you took me
for a Madonna formed by blood.
but a winsome piece of jade,
there, taken from my lip,
puckers for a bright thumb
to fill its missing space.
so an angel counts its fingers:
on the first day,
crows. empty nests.
and the second,
the arranged marriage between lake and sky.
the third and fourth were actually one day,
and it was spent folding paper
for the fifth
who fed on the crumpled pages,
throwing itself into the sea
for the sixth
who feared drowning
yet did nothing
crows in hand.
Sammi Bryan has lived and loved in Memphis, TN for the past six years, during which she earned a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Rhodes College, cohosted the reading series The Bastet Quartet, and stumbled her way through cat-motherhood, among other misadventures. She will pursue an MFA in poetry at the University of Alabama in the fall. This is her first publication.