…what a woman…can finally admit, aware as
she is of the inanity of Being.
I’m gathering wood.
You fall from the tree around my neck, Father.
A joke, a rapture in ice:
Child-breast your mouth takes,
chill fingers you guide in…
Nothing is snow everywhere,
its cathedral of meaning.
Mother thrashes her wings in the tent,
groans like a bear.
Hunkered down in skins,
she dreams the face of your desire.
Of my sickness,
her thought is dogwood and music,
a prisoner of the strange,
petaling branches of dream.
Night hardens melting snow,
arrests sharp drops on branches.
Beside the dim fire’s no rest for her.
When you climb on,
she forgets to breathe. Mother sleeps.
Not dreaming, she forgets to wake.
To wipe out sense,
nonsense and laughter are sounds
I breathe above the cradle.
Night, you steal
my daughter’s quieted mouth
into the canyon.
You’ve built a mound, you say.
Not far from here?
But you won’t tell me.
I burn her bed of twigs and moss,
offer food to the fire
for her journey, and Mother’s.
A trader, half-breed from up the melting river,
stops at camp, notes your missing woman.
Nodding at your words,
while I fix the food, he smiles.
My hands in meal,
he passes you smoke and a bottle.
Gone, the trader’s black eyes
bob in my sleep.
Your hands, Father,
turn to meat, bloody on me.
Mother’s smoky body
rises from the banked dinner fire.
Come the green of spring,
this rain in my skin
insists I take sun.
Like a red bird at dawn
I climb the mountain’s wet branches to the top.
As far as I see
brightness drowns all in flower.
ABOUT A RELEASE: OUT OF THE OBSCENE FOLKLORE OF CHILDREN
The pieces of mine that [Four Chambers] picked are really distinct, so they each have a particular inspiration. In general, sound, the way words feel in my mouth, that inspires me. The way a line sounds as a unit, how and what it builds. The depth of emotion an image or figure can convey. When I can tell that life, or a life, is crystallized in a poem–that’s moving. One of my poems that you’re publishing was written with someone I loved–or, I started with his images and words and then found my own. A rich process…[A Release] is a persona poem too. I guess all of the ones you picked are persona poems. Interesting. Maybe I could say something like adopting a persona is liberating. Something more can emerge than if I relied only on my own life for narrative details or understanding.
ABOUT THE ILLUSTRATION
Elizabeth McNeil is an English instructor at Arizona State University’s downtown campus. She also teaches poetry and memoir writing through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. In addition to a chapbook, Why We Need to Come Home, she has published poetry and fiction in Fourteen Hills, Flint Hills Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Flyway, and other journals. She is the author of a monograph, Trickster Discourse: Mediating Transformation for a New World, and co-editor of two scholarly volumes, Sapphire’s Literary Breakthrough: Erotic Literacies, Feminist Pedagogies, Environmental Justice Perspectives and Queer Landscapes: Mapping Queer Space(s) of Praxis and Pedagogy (forthcoming).
James B. Hunt (NXOEED) is a visual artist living and working in the middle of the desert. He’s been hiding his paintings throughout the Greater Phoenix area for the past ten years. He claims there are as many as 189 pieces hidden right this very minute. He’s hoping that you’ll find them and give them a good home. He is one third of the audiovisual noise trio CSOTYS. He lives in Phoenix, collects rocks, and meticulously monitors his shortwave radio for ionospheric oddities.