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Three Poems
In Situ

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.

Rae Gouirand is the author of two collections of poetry, Glass is Glass Water is Water (Spork Press) and Open Winter (Bellday Books), the chapbooks Little Hour (Swan Scythe Press), Jinx (Seven Kitchens Press) and Must Apple (Educe Press), and a short work of nonfiction, The History of Art (The Atlas Review). She lectures in the Department of English at UC-Davis.