Two Poems / by Sammi Bryan

                For Bailey        

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. 

boy-child claw-deep
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

except wait,
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.