Photo by Jeff Sirkin



What is more fragile than the skin

on which we mark nascent things.

What is less distinct than the pass

between medium and message.

The first time I traced

lines I could not loan to ink

it was on the back of one

who read them backwards

from within her mind, reversing live

as she rode the fit of my hip

to a mountain each of us had read about

but found ourselves surprised to find

as suddenly as the sounds

we didn’t realize we were letting

until they came back from the walls.


| top |

*** ** ***



There was no mother after.

There were no walls.

There was no warmth.

What space matches?

In the morning the sun was dull

and no enclosure reminded those bones

they connected somewhere below.

Eyes opened to perceive light.

A whiteness perceptible in the field

the field a place where many things

did not unfold over time,

where there came room

to perceive the visual, emotional contours

of nothing lengthening,

continuing, repeating itself as robotically

as a copying machine forgotten by someone

the individual copies emptying

into a room otherwise empty of movement.


| top |

*** ** ***



Once I imagined

if I considered the material itself

I might sense my way

into an understanding of reflection,

of that which secures

the questioning. I became dizzy

in the way one does

looking up or spinning before what spins,

a processor caught, a stargazer,

a person drunk on their own sudden feeling

of belonging or connectedness

to the greater cosmic order and disorder

of things recognizable and not.

I trusted, as many do, the transportation

of my ponderance through

examination into sense, as I trusted

silver-backed-glass to return

a likeness reversed. I traveled that trust

as light travels, passes between

the fibers of the page, allowing perception,

permitting focus, providing

opportunity to read that mind passing.

Still I cannot promise

any private notebook’s as coherent

as that unselfconscious glance,

the kind that doesn’t register until

someone else calls attention

to it, declaring in that moment

you look more beautiful than you

ever have in your entire life, to that point.


| top |

*** ** ***



I turned to another and for the first time used

the word someday to mean a day

that will be instead of no day. The sentence

in which I used it contained a wish that

we might in the future take in an animal

that would walk through the halls of our future house

and into a year that was too far future to know

where we would find ourselves speaking

of all the days at once while the animal gathered

in its mouth its line and brought it forward

to remind us of the time. I heard the sentence end

and come back to me before I realized

I was speaking it. I still hear it coming back—

at nearly forty the person I spoke it to

texts from across the country to say our dog

is pacing nightly again, getting up

in the middle of the night to walk a loop around

the first floor of the house, slipping

on his arthritic ankles and turned-out front paws

as he walks himself somewhere over

and over. She sleeps with him, her partner

with the cats, or rather she wakes with him,

she follows him mentally as he clicks around

in circles. Yesterday, he mistook her arm

for a nearby toy and bit, and kept biting,

until it came into focus that he was mistaken.

We guess at a tumor as his behaviors

are now often unpredictable, except for the circling,

which comes and goes, but which goes when it goes

sometimes all night, many nights in a row,

as though he is driven to finish his walking,

even if it is that time that his people must sleep.


| top |

*** ** ***



I think of memory and notation

almost as siblings,

one’s value simultaneous

with the vulnerabilities of the other.

I know sisters who laugh at the same

begrudging one another

their overlap—the older

a little more hardened, the younger

more in need of gentle hands

when her words suggest an echo

of what the person closest

to her origins is saying.


| top |

*** ** ***



Send snow.

That which has a design,

brings its design to us

for notice.

Which publishes, publishes, publishes

in the space that has cleared.

Which takes publishing for law

and follows the law down.

It might blow a bit but it is lawful.

Things come infinitely, clearly.

What we need could take up

the entire world we move through

too were we schooled.

We tip our glance or turn

to sleeve. Vapor

around the nucleus.

Don’t breathe too hard.

We need sleep.

Endings so we take.

When the teacher speaks to the student,

there must be metaphors paced in the language

the student understands. Begin gently,

snow reminds us.

Publish, publish, publish.

It gets mundane.

Give me pictures.

I don’t dream much, but some days.

How many metaphors must there be

before we can know the first thing certainly?

Give me warmth, later, to melt it for myself,

to melt what I know for myself.


| top |


Rae Gouirand’s
first collection of poetry, Open Winter, was the winner of the Bellday Prize, an Independent Publisher Book Award, and the Eric Hoffer Book Award, and a finalist for the Montaigne Medal, Audre Lorde Award, and California Book Award for poetry. Her work has appeared most recently in American Poetry ReviewZYZZYVACrazyhorsediode, VOLTThe RumpusFANZINEBeloit Poetry JournalBarrow Street, a Distinguished Poet feature for The Inflectionist Review, and the anthology Please Excuse This Poem: 100 Poets for the Next Generation. She has founded numerous longrunning workshops in poetry and prose in northern California and online, and serves as a lecturer in the Department of English at UC-Davis. She is currently at work on her third collection of poems and a work of nonfiction. For more, see allonehum.wordpress.com


To download a printable PDF version of this page, click here.


| top |


A dozen poets. One a month. Nothing more.