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Issue 18

Poetry » Jennifer Cook »

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Brushfire

One day my great aunt said belts made her nervous.
It was all the rusty smirk and silent implication needed
as she pincered it distastefully by the tail,
a snake in the carpet, brass buckle teeth rattling
the storm warning, her knowing look telescoping
the line of inheritance that could strap ourselves
in at the chest for a ride anytime.
Suddenly his hands could be braced
around your neck, not knowing whether

you had stopped breathing on
your own or not, and you pitched up against
a dresser, or the door–I can’t exactly remember–
but when you later found yourself
at a distant window, hands folded at the table,
a calm wind could finally let the cut flowers
weep their wasted pollen on the linens.
Who knew this falling, yellow silence could be
truth and consequence enough
to know that the lost Prairie lament
had nothing on any of us, or that we would
smile wide open, strike our fingers,
and spark a poem together?


Green Wood

I want
To see behind your eyes
Like the birch bark
I used to peel
For endless young afternoons,
Slowly tearing away the paper armor
To the soft wood
Underneath.
Perhaps if I had met you on the underside of this skin
Or
Been bent by a gentler wind,
Then things would be different.
But I was a destructive force, you see,
Or perhaps curious-
Too curious-
Slinging mud and scraping sticks
Where I used to settle
Beneath the trees,
Restless
For that glimpse of golden cathedral
Peering between the branches,
Trapped in a meditation of
Creating sense of things.
Or
Perhaps I was merely distractive-
Far too distractive-
Secretly drowning my stones
In uncharted soil,
Lost under that great pine canopy
Where the sap can stick
Your fingers together,
And crooked roots
Vault a craggy shelter up
All around you.
Perhaps I spent too much time
Crouched into the deep hollows
In between,
Wishing the earth could swallow me whole
And expire me into sunlight
Through outstretched limbs.
Perhaps I’m still sleeping there
With dry, unused lips,
Tangled in my briars
For believing in you.