Because Bark Is Neither Boat Nor a Hearkening
She is in the tree by the river
that sings in the tree, in the mouth
of wood waxing mournful on water,
off chipping, mulchy darkness, water
singing throats of wasps’ nests, hively
shrilling of bees, but it’s darker than honey,
more homely than resinous gold, it’s cold
and damp in the song of water ringing
off this closet of ripple, of rapid and fade,
of day’s end and the coming of blade, ash,
axe’s edge opening the throat of bold call,
of what the moon won’t say in any emergency,
any anxious fall, reds in the greens of summer,
the lone hollow of tree by the river in which
she sings, water in her teeth.
Memory of Sin
What comes, comes of its own.
Frost on the windows, filaments of ice,
the touch of ghosts too timid to come in.
No bell, no knocker, nothing to announce
the chill, the jolt, the flare of the naked unbidden,
what comes in the night. What comes, comes like
wind. Shatters the silence and silences the broken,
the pieces of complaint, town gossips tattling, Listen,
she’s not what she thought, not so good, so lily pure; she will go
the old way. And the sycamore twigs tittering to hear
the news. What comes, comes as quiet echoing the loss,
the near world echoing the loss, of something begun
and abandoned: a sad moon rising faintly over the earth,
shrunk down to a dime, to fit in a pocket, then further
diminished, then quickly tossed away.
Unwriting the Sentence
Nightly, it flaps out, flaps out—
not a cry but a quietness, it had become
bigger than she, empty of starlight.
Sleep tucked it far beneath a bed of wings
and smoke-moon, beneath the room
rocking a slow tug at her boatlessness.
It would come for her. Mornings, she knew this
better than curtains know to keep out light.
She once feared this would be more than
she would ever know: the book of pages
left unturned, sullied with some phantom
coffee stains, underlines, mostly the erasures.
It was the erasures. In the end, it was
the erasures of love that hurt most.
Something Wet and Floaty and Once
The littlenesses start littling in pinks, whites,
yellows. She knows dandelions, the weed ones,
the ones not supposed to be, as she is not. Exit.
Thinks she’s a bird’s nest, but the eggs followed
a robin to another home. A bobbin doesn’t unspool
thread, it winds twigs into her hazard of hair, a lair
for empty breezes and the promises of elsewhere.
The littlenesses might taste like soap bubbles and milk,
ashes and snow, if only ibises and ostriches lived in her
wild, not on wallpaper’s fast-fading landscape. The lure
of God is a raindrop fallen on a flock of banking starlings,
fly now, dim spirals, she wants to believe, but no birds
speak her prayers and she’s broken inside a bud of
tomorrow, as even the dandelions deny her.
Gillian Cummings is the author of My Dim Aviary, winner of the 2015 Hudson Prize (Black Lawrence Press, 2016). She has also written three chapbooks, the most recent of which is Ophelia (dancing girl press, 2016). Her poems have appeared in Barrow Street, Boulevard, the Colorado Review, Denver Quarterly, The Laurel Review, Verse Daily and in other journals.