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Five Poems

One helped undo the rippled look of things beyond the pane. One called for writing on the pane. One seemed to aim at suffocation. One promised the end result of breathing freely. One made use of dead though iridescent wings. One said to drink from the mirror, while another took bowls and bowls of blood. One called for moss on top of blood. One required no words at all. One turned a black stone green with just one word. One made the horses bolt. One crushed a plant for the end of a sorrow. One derived a forest from pendant ghosts. One was a spell for no more spells. For cutting them down, and letting them go.

A Phenomenon

keeps for years in a button gone missing, or brings something of the sea to the surface of combs and boxes. Do not call the world a box. A coast is first a rib and then a shore. Pluck a fowl, a string, a brow. Violets are a woodland breathing. When we reach into its thoracic cavity, the organs of a butchered cow, for as long as they hold together, we call the pluck. In Arabic, nakara means to hollow out. Nacre yields us mother-of-pearl, liquor concreted as inner shell, little tomb of aragonite bricks that rough up light as iridescence.



There is a lining where creation meets creation, where the two are of one choosing substance. In this quarter of the year, the meadows are never at rest. The cloth is shot with indeterminate themes. Feeling the clear whips of absence, feeling the black grips of gold. Everything is interior unless it is not. If it is simplicity she wants, what could be more simple. Shell and web: They are both secretions. A soul could at last be looked for where the scrupulous body falls to pieces. She spends a day at the mirror observing rain, its downward trails on glass, and a day among the larches thinking. When a mirror cracks from side to side, bad luck takes up the room’s reflection.


From Hands That Love You to Your Hands

An axed birch curls to ash. There is no time she knows that isn’t tactile. What is spoken, what is woven, will have turned into world. She does not question the facts of seclusion. As a whelk by water, the tower is turned by wind, and background takes the greater part. The fires are there without her asking how, or ever meeting who it is who lays them. Every level of the tower has a hearth. The stair spiral, of cut stone, feels like a stalk, the helix from whom a fire threads out at every level of the dwelling.


Burning sweetgrass fills the room. What is the last month of winter? A bird is hunting from the sky. Not science or longing will have turned his feathers redder. It was always the winter season that made them so. It is always a winter season when red is reddest for the mind. The windows are black behind the curtains. There is no other pattern of weathers and stars. There is an old goddess of Ice. There is a cold name for our mouths to shape the icy moonlight in her tracks. 

Sarah Gridley is the author of four books of poetry: Weather Eye Open (University of California Press, 2005), Green is the Orator (UCPress, 2010), Loom (Omnidawn Publishing, 2013, awarded the 2011 Open Book Prize by Carl Phillips), and Insofar (New Issues Press, 2020, awarded the 2019 Green Rose Prize by Forrest Gander). Other honors include the 2018 Cecil Hemley Memorial Award and the 2019 Writer Magazine/Emily Dickinson Award from the Poetry Society of America. She is in the first year of an MA program in Theological and Religious Studies at John Carroll University.