Back to Issue Twenty-Six.

heronry

BY CAITLIN ROACH
 

Days get swallowed into others how
            the haunt of your frayed tufts peels

over the crests of my shoulders even long
            after you’re gone. Incessant:

the baby’s cries before dark. This morning
            deafened by the heron’s shrill

in the estuary it combed through, hushing
            to preen its stringy neck in the fog

the moment a red-tailed hawk snatched
            a hatchling from its nest.

Though I can’t remember the smell
            of your cunt, I remember

other things: the way the yellowthroat washes
            itself in the bird bath: the way

I watch on and will it to gag, a gentle wich-i-ty
            wich-i-ty, wich-i-ty, a reminder

in song that each thing is a hunter. You
            never heard the baby cry and I have

always wanted that kind of resilience.
            One day my daughter will wish

she never knew me. What has this to do
            with you except everyone is game?

When this day doesn’t give in to another,
            when steeped into the bent kelp

reeds, the wilds, I will be spoken for, will be
            swallowed up by—someone

has picked the azaleas from the grave.

 

NOTE: 
a man imposed himself on the environment he wanted to subdue: paraphrased from curator and writer Clelia Coussonnet on Hicham Berrada’s 2015 installation Mesk-ellil at the Lyon Museum of Contemporary Art. 

 

 

nightjar

BY CAITLIN ROACH

The fat sphere pinked, lowering quick into a slack mouth.
I watched it dip and with everything around me nearly
already dead, you were somewhere between elements, dropping
through a dark you did not ask for. I photographed the ice
fields, the trash strewn at the roadside, the lint on my kneecap
to remember how the world appeared in those moments
before you leaked into it. Four nests froze in a bald tree.
The winter sucked all of its color—even the sumac spared
its cardinal. In the horizon’s soft fold, azures blushed
into coral, then white. You slowly gained color, the slate
of each your irises darkening, the gilt wet fur keeping you
whole inside it, its nautilus that must have spun on
your forehead, violet as the blood settling in your nailbeds.
I pictured your face yet, what would be a fullness of a nose,
what your voice would soon sound like, the first let of it
shocking your body the way it would the small room. Across
an ocean in a room a woman sunk in a blue fixed by lunar light
to reverse the cycles of night-blooming jasmine. A man sought
to refit the flower’s circadian rhythms, that they might blossom
at day and did. Critics called it poetic but must have meant
a man imposed himself on the environment he wanted to subdue.
As you fell crows retired from lines and I mistook the sound
of a thigh being scratched for talons detaching from wire as
when her grip loosened when the worst of it was over, thinking
of nightjars: who suck the milk of goats and so are called by
that action: who at the sense of threat migrate nests and carry
their chicks in their mouth: that neither of these things are true
but the jasmine still are sutured to my appraisal of your onset
then, wondering if you wanted any of this at all, if you doubted
the faculty to breathe, were guided by meaty breasts, knew light
enough to know it was dark, if in the moment you opened
you were cold, could feel the space around you emptied, could
see the tiles above your head and know they were blue. One day
I’ll drop you just so I might bend to you and say: give me all
your wounds. I will carry them by mouth, one at a time. 
What more
can be hoped for the body anyway. Give me the hose, so
from you I’ll siphon little spells. 

 

 

Roach 26

Caitlin Roach’s poems have appeared in Poetry NorthwestTin HouseBest New Poets 2017Colorado ReviewPoetry DailyWest Branch, the Manchester Review, the Iowa Review, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA in poetry from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and is an assistant professor-in-residence at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. More of her work can be found at caitlinroach.com.

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