to the bone of you

Fledgling
Traci Brimhall

I scare away rabbits stripping the strawberries
in the garden, ripened ovaries reddening
their mouths. You take down the hanging basket
and show it to our son—a nest, secret as a heart,
throbbing between flowers. Look, but don’t touch,
you instruct our son who has already begun
to reach for the black globes of a new bird’s eyes,
wanting to touch the world. To know it.
Disappointed, you say: Common house finch,
as if even banal miracles aren’t still pink
and blind and heaving with life. When the cat
your ex-wife gave you died, I was grateful.
I’d never seen a man grieve like that
for an animal. I held you like a victory,
embarrassed and relieved that this was how
you loved. To the bone of you. To the meat.
And we want the stricken pleasure of intimacy,
so we risk it. We do. Every day we take down
the basket and prove it to our son. Just look
at its rawness, its tenderness, it’s almost flying.

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Time to be the fine line

Time to be the fine line of light
Carrie Fountain

between the blind and the sill, nothing
really. There are so many things

that destroy. To think solely of them
is as foolish and expedient as not

thinking of them at all. All I want
is to be the river though I return

again and again to the clouds.
All I want is to stop beginning sentences

with All I want. No—no really all
I want is this morning: my daughter

and my son saying “Da!” back and forth
over breakfast, cracking each other up

while eating peanut butter toast
and raspberries, making a place for

the two of them I will, eventually,
no longer be allowed to enter. Time to be

the fine line. Time to practice being
the line. And then maybe the darkness.

grief fashioned in its cruelest translation

Saudade
John Freeman

means nostalgia, I’m told, but also
nostalgia for what never was. Isn’t it
the same thing? At a café
in Rio flies wreathe my glass.

How you would have loved this: the waiter
sweating his knit shirt dark. Children
loping, in tiny suits or long shorts, dragging
toys and towels to the beach. We talk,

or I talk, and imagine your answer, the heat clouding our view.
Here, again, grief fashioned in its cruelest translation:
my imagined you is all I have left of you.

where the mess is

Strictly Speaking
David Rivard

There is the question
of bearing witness, of being yourself seen
by yourself, & seen clearly, cleanly,
without weapon or bible in hand;
as this was the wish,
the sturdy & not-so-secret wish
of those who named us—

our parents wanted us to be
known to ourselves without confusion:
without judgment,
sans suffering. Never force it,
they said, always find it.

OK, strictly speaking, that’s not entirely true.
My particular, sole, insistent, moody mother & father
probably never thought much about it at all.
Those two anxious citizens,
they were never exemplars of patience.
The weightlessness of detachment & acceptance
as I think of it now
would have frightened them—
for good reason.

If you could see these words
I’m speaking to you tonight printed on a page
as typeface & magnified x 500
you would feel just how ragged & coarse
they really are, heavy.

Well, playing the part of a butterfly
must be tiring, right?
I’m happier being the old ox, right?

On some plane of existence
these two scraps are all my news:
where the mess is
that’s where my heart is.

what can become the heart’s food stored away for some future famine

May Perpetual Light Shine
Patricia Spears Jones

We have encountered storms
Perfect in their drench and wreck

Each of us bears an ornament of grief
A ring, a notebook, a ticket torn, scar
It is how humans know their kind—

What is known as love, what can become
the heart’s food stored away for some future
Famine

Love remains a jewel in the hand, guarded
Shared fragments of earth & air drift & despair.

We ponder what patterns matter other than moons and tides:
musical beats—rumba or waltz or cha cha cha
cosmic waves like batons furiously twirling
colors proclaiming sparkle of darkness
as those we love begin to delight
in the stars embracing

I have tried. I have tried, as the Jesuits taught

Portrait in Graphite and Ornamental Hagiography
C. Dale Young

You may not believe it, but I have tried,
set my sights on the morning star
in belief it would guide me. I have tried.

I have tried, as the Jesuits taught, to be
singular, to be whole, to be one. The labor
of this was exhausting. Time reveals things

one need not appreciate when young, and I fear
being singular, being one, is something
damned near impossible for someone

like me. Saint Jerome, cloistered in a tiny room,
found his singular calling in updating
the Latin Bible with his knowledge of Greek texts.

In Assisi, Saint Francis updated nature, called birds
out of the trees. I am, unfortunately, no saint.
Fractured, divided to the quick, I am incapable

of being singular. And the old nun who taught Art
at my high school, who called me a stupid mongrel,
understood this very fact long before I did.

Profession, family, belief: I can see now
my background challenges me, prevents me
from remaining true to only one thing. The fog,

settled over Ocean Beach, settles the matter
by embracing everything indiscriminately,
and I want to understand why I notice

such things. For most of my life, I have desired
a category, a designation, but maybe
that desire was misplaced? Maybe it was just

another failure, a failure of imagination?
Outside, two hummingbirds cross-stitch the air.
They have lived here for so long, lived

off the “nectar” I boil up for them each week,
that they show me no semblance of fear or distrust—
they hover and feed near me with violent precision.

for years I have seen dead animals on the highway

Mistake
Heather Christle

For years I have seen
dead animals on the highway

and grieved for them
only to realize they are

not dead animals
they are t shirts

or bits of blown tire
and I have found

myself with this
excess of grief

I have made with
no object to let

it spill over and
I have not known

where to put it or
keep it and then today

I thought I know
I can give it to you