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Seven Pieces
These assumptions

That what interests me might also interest you; that something immediate, elaborated, and solidified by language will remain after the steamroller of history has run across it; that the young man lying on his back in the grass of a Wyoming meadow, head propped against a gray weather-beaten hollow ribcage of a tree trunk, writing in his notebook, records something exact about the pale sun, the distant plateau, the air moving in and out of his lungs; that whatever comes to us to be named intends to stay.

Go ahead and shoot

You are going to miss anyway because of my:
(a) indeterminate thermostat,
(b) belief in my own invisibility formed by years of practice underwater,
(c) tendency to pay attention to you long before you decide whether you want me to,
(d) willingness to consider how this is like that,
(e) trickster packrat behavior and prestidigitation with infinite set theory involving collections of rocks, clamshells, feathers, volunteer pinecones, acorns, seed pods, gnarly twigs, etc.,
(f) spaceshot preoccupation with punctuating this sentence,
(g) heart being already so multiply pierced you could drive a truck through it,
(h) early onset to a default of as if,
(i) record of victory at dodgeball.


She painted clouds, he hunted amber. She counted eggs, he angled rainward. She stitched in linen, he fashioned rafters. She gazed at kites, he staked up asters. She buried coins, he windowed water. She spoke in rhymes, he yearned to wander.

Long division

I am thinking of a sum. First divide by the words aesthetic concrete, which were painted on the side of a van that passed me on the Washington Bridge on my way into Providence last week. Take what’s left and divide by the green sneakers a friend of mine wore all through high school. Then divide by his orange VW bug. Now divide by the hidden yet manifest nature of the divine. What you have left will be divisible evenly by six goldfinch perched at the thistle feeder plus those two Saint Bernard puppies waiting in the next car at Dunkin Donuts on Saturday before we left for the softball tournament. There should be no remainder.

The memory fruit

You are not singular. You are not even really yourself. Something else makes you: deep snow, grief offered names, love as portable as a small stone. The time is simply the time it takes. When she left, she folded her wasted body through a crack in spacetime and bloomed out on the other side, pulling the long bright skein of my brain’s neural pathways with her. A fragrance that can only be imagined. What I am holding here is just a receipt.

My hymnody

A descant flew up and floated in the rafters long after the last chorister had departed.

Night cryers

Most of them were identifiable. For a whole summer, a half hour after we settled into our chairs at the fire, a screech owl began to purr. One evening he flew soundlessly by to investigate us and perched not fifteen feet away on one of the seawall pilings. Later, a barking owl woke me from a dream about my father. Unearthly call of a fox, murderous screams of raccoons in combat, single perturbed croak of a night heron interrupted in his fishing. The yipping of coyotes at a distance. I stir the last of the coals, burned down to glowing embers. The tide is up, and with no moon the sky is dark enough to see Cygnus stretching its wings over our roof. Across the lagoon, beyond the wall of trees, a slight titter. A pair of eyes shine back my flashlight. I think it’s time to go in.

Karen Donovan is the author of Fugitive Red, which won the Juniper Prize for Poetry. Her new book, Your Enzymes Are Calling the Ancients, won the Lexi Rudnitsky Editor’s Choice Award from Persea Books and is due in 2016.