Sometimes the language tenders its own
resonant edge, as when one reads
of how the remains remain submerged, as in
in-place drownings of forests.
I first read of their somber strains in
a letter speaking of being consumed,
in French la noyade, the name of a scent
mixed from blood cedarwood,
maritime pine, cypress, onycha tincture,
seaweed, a song sunk enough to
call it sodden. There is nothing heavier
than an unnamed waterlog that longs
to be sounded if not instinctively spelled.
I should say must, instinctively, note
it must be sounded. I should say at the end
of a year that left me saying almost
nothing, all I wanted to do was enter water,
merge with the alone and the through
I could feel moving someplace I wasn’t.
On our beach, the bull kelp dries
detached from its rocky substrate, the sea palm
on broken mussel, the intertidal grapestone,
the kombu and wakame exposed as teachers.
I cannot speak to this, how I recognize
them, tangled honestly in the place image lives
before it’s language. In the meadow of water,
shadows glow and release dreamtrees, dulses,
lettuces, waterlilies, the entire history,
arame and algae stinging initially as they salt
then slowly claim us. Sometimes
we cannot name what we need to name.
In the face of the unsayable we enter
the sea some synonym—pursue that lacustrine,
landslide, failed dam, invite the sediment
packing its collapsed mass, in the ten
thousand years of blacker water
where trees were inundated, now
hundreds of feet deep. There is
no decomposition where nothing breathes,
where weight is inescapable, only
for naming, and this we read as though
woken from a dream with the word
once in the mouth. What is the body
into which we are moved
when we dedicate the weight to a name
for it? At low tide the bald cypress
spells its hold on the entirety, neither sanctuary
nor grave, lettering the accumulation.
The fortune tellers we folded
were on lined paper, blue rule on white,
one edge torn out of a notebook
we were required to carry. We wanted to know everything.
The thing behind the whale, gliding
deep and slow beneath our sparking skins.
We dove and unfolded. That was our reason,
the design of our moment. Give me confirmation we prayed
to the star of a friend’s hands,
not yet wind, not yet what the wind carried
but a fixed thing on a cold rock
trying to learn how to speak. When I looked out
to the water, it shined, and
(oh speaking place) I knew what it meant to need
so long before I knew what I needed.
It was an agony. I’ll commit.
So beautiful those around us began to hurt themselves
instinctively. What all those grown do to beauty,
eventually, is turn it. Only water evaded
the world, our place in it. I don’t
think it fair to say we were young.
We were still everything.
We never talk about that, about
how holy it is to walk in that eagerness
to open, to be that walking. Incurable,
answering to an absolute we couldn’t have begun
to articulate. Those in charge of our teaching
offered the stories that begin long
ago. I stand there, a part of me wearing
my favorite tshirt with the tiger, the torn wool crewneck
my father wore he elbows out of before he married
but kept, walking up and down the hills
of a city that doesn’t know my name, looking
for reasons to speak a language that doesn’t pause,
pushing his dark hair out of my eyes.
I was flesh before I went stone,
girl before I went undercover, enamored
with the white flash, that furthest-away thing. I could
perceive. Had I
that freedom I’d have held myself
at the greatest distance too—
the ache like the scent of cedar shavings clinging.
A remove an inhalation
treed, those left behind singing to the line
they must learn to hold as absolutely as anything.
But a girl is never permitted becoming,
not when she sees the line,
and never permitted to become the line,
to hold anything like a line between herself and
anything. So you walk. I did certainly. And
spin what you can leave behind like a trail,
a glowing scattering. I now see that was my first
dream as that ‘young woman’ others called
me— to turn another into the song of their own
singing, to force the intimacy.
To become the ache.
Because I loved that ache.
Knew the minute I saw that white point,
the first night longitude realized itself through me and
the length of my sentences spoken
outward, to no one in particular
and to everyone, who would always count.
My music knew that girl who held herself up
to the horizon, stretched her own text thin
til she could read the other side,
conceive of what the world intended
and what she’d never be permitted, figure
a way to hold the entirety at bay
as long as it took to match the horizon
inside, where it’d have to live.
I was never impartial. None of us was.
We’d sworn to the jellydream that we’d hooked some
imminent sense of beyond to. I thee thou wow
you me in the purplebluegreen swerving, coming in
low. We knew we didn’t belong to ourselves
so we looked for some (oh, unspoken) one to trust ourselves to.
Storms with Thunder
for Sara Post
She remembers Dillard, ‘geography
is key—the crucial accident of birth’
in the comments aside her newest posted
sketch, crayon, cyanotype, like a door opening
fast into air electric, vacuumed,
already removing itself from our lungs.
I think to Pittsburgh, on my tongue
this week, and the way summer rain
often felt competitive with brick,
blackened even yellow brick
so it spoke more commandingly
of how summers endanger the continuity.
In a museum before opening on Saturdays
I was taught: there is the color you see first
and the one to which you’ll arrive.
It took me until recently to learn how
one breathes the range between,
how a flash of religious indigo
gives over to an emotional navy, how
a toxic peach becomes soft pink,
then lavender, then cadet. Against black
it all moves, and black moves through
like a hand between two figures, like
the night into or through which the rain.
Some white, things falling from a table,
the idea of a door leaving behind
a wall. Before I married I said if
this goes south, it will be the ten
point oh that levels me for good.
In agreement we knew no other option
and then above, another blue, one
independent of our understandings, larger
than those lines between which we
gathered meanings. Forgive me,
it will be one of us who will leave
the other before this changeable sky,
its unforgiveable day and night, no
matter what we assign to the foreground
of these days: black will deepen, enjewel
to blue, and swallow all but surviving.