What Writing Is
Quiet thoughts grow crowless. Silver rustle,
floodline spindle. Finally, the water
faces itself: a rock glossed naked where
the current parts, storehouse of a broken peak.
Every tree here is a locked box, every thorn
a collar buttoned to the top, and yet
among the mosses: wild garlic, thyme.
Being conversant, I know all exchanges
begin on the tongue. Being human, I want
a taste. Sweat carries me sunward, minutely,
all the while. Beneath the canopy, wasps
pit their young in a paper hurricane
dry as a pharaoh’s heart a thousand years in
an earthen jar. None so born grow on honey.
What Writing Is, Also
Upon the blond lake, a woman rowing crosshanded.
Her boat, all tacks and ribs showing, is a map, a
a piece of ground sent shore to shore, comparing.
She feels her heartbeat burl through her back,
her forearms unlashing the distant bank. She knows
a home for what it is. Rounding a shingled island,
her boat flares crimson, wick beneath her. This is
the hour the sun steps from the chamber, the hour
the forest whistles a change of shifts, just before
an owl unbars his eyesight and shoulders his wings.
The world prays thus, in doubles: in wingbeats and
clasped hands, in the split-halves of seeds, in the
being lifted from their locks by the rower. The lake
from the dock now is pewter, an upturned bell; the
a clapper lolling. Where the rower climbs the bank,
darkness echoes. It is not too late to come to love.
In the first story, no one drowns
in the crescent rivers of the sky
or loses the pull of magnetic north
footing their way through affection’s
You get a mirrorhouse
of eyes, even in the dark you can see
all colors, and each is a conjugate
of the verb to breathe.
After the first
spoonful of honey, the taste stays
always on your tongue and informs
so that sobbing becomes
an act of sweetness.
The second story is the same, but no one
tells you. Runes lose their prophecy
as does the tea leaves’ humid unfurl.
Lost in a forest, you hear wood wrens
chitter, but you have forgotten
their language of Braille.
It takes a whole life
to observe the caution of the sun moving
east to west, or to know who you are.
Come the third story, you begin to respect
the makers of myth for giving angels
arms and wings
in nature gets both-outside fable’s
nine gates, no one leaves this earth
and carries it also. And you sense this
may be rightly so, and enjoy the sensation
of fingers and toes
instead of talons,
which you will receive in the fourth story.
Day without context,
though it stays outside.
That much, at least.
Against the glass.
a chill steadies itself,
soot of frost
upon the dark window.
One of a deck
of months in a
a nameless winter,
a slurry of news ink
below a sodden
trash heap of stars.
How long have we
been here, pinch-ribbed
in back and
up front, gaping?
Along the earth’s jawlines,
go blue in the gums.
in my last dream,
fell out my mouth.
And bird teeth,
a child’s milk teeth.
So it is, you
gone, and me
The pines this morning, still damp
with last night’s cries, are cold
as I am cold, though one of us
is sharpening into a long, dark blade
Along its edge, the lake
is laid out like an empty dress.
Someone has fled
wanting to come back,
wanting to fit migration and flight
into the same suitcase, even if it means
taking nothing else.
In their small flocks of two or four,
loons have returned following
the toss of stars.
All night they cry out
the glacial notes packed heavy
in the sawhouse of their bones.
Every question I want to ask is
one question: how will I leave.
Like a pulse retreating from the tremor
of the throat.
Like a violet tucking
head under wing.
running rootward to rise again
to melt, again.
Will I find in time
my mapself, will that self take the lead?
Author of“How To Study Birds,” a chapbook collection from
Dancing Girl Press, Sarah Gardner is a poet and
teacher whose work has appeared in many journals
including Borderlands, The Cortland Review, Calyx, and
Cranky. She was recently named a finalist for the
Bechtel Prize. Currently Sarah lives in Iowa and
teaches for St. Ambrose University.