June – Zelda Chappel

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Photographs by Jane Burn

 

Alaska

Come tomorrow. And when you do, I’ll show you how the light up here

is strange as retrospect and just as changeable. Between the mountains
I have not been alone—there’s so much to befriend. I’ve grown my elk

hooves now, learned to tread the snow in ‘scapes that have no warmth
yet know they are alive. From the window it’s easy to mistake the snow

for nothing. I’ve spent years absorbing her silences and pretending
there is no language left here to decipher us. I have not missed bright light

or its sudden charge. Ask me about what happened then and I’ll tell you
I cannot think of much but the bloodline we once held in childish fists,

string-burn an imminent risk. I saw us break through our winter moulds,
leap with sharpened teeth at the wrong things. I chased their shadows.

I was led. What words could we have for this now, you say. Not many.
I left our blood pooling on the table. Sometimes I dip my finger in.

 

(First published in Anomaly, Issue 1, September 2015)

 

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Polaris

Some nights I let you tattoo me with a swallow, bring me home to a myth thick as sea.
I let you hold the bare­skinned vessel of my thoughts like a stone, sea­worn, devoured

in the expanse. We were, once, only space. Now the oceans are a mirror, bringing us
back to Earth where nightly you draw a line down through the core of me, North to South

and still I do not split. Trust me, I might be drifting but I know just how to hold myself
to your anchorage, fixed in dark, waiting for the light to graze me. I am learning now

this navigation is not purely science. It’s true, their spectroscopes insist on measuring us
in our faintest light; captured, unreasoned, explained by number. But we collect other things

underneath. Look now at these elements that make us. Show me how stardust falls, settles
deep between us. Show me. And I will sing you this: there is no shame in romance here.

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Uncertain outcomes

In days of brave experiments, burial is not the same
as forgetting, though the ground beneath us is useful

for deafening. Beyond us wilderness is a conversation
in two languages we have no understanding of

so we learn what it is to become feral like the boars
and wolves, the ones they told us about in stories

before bed so we might dream of growling leaves,
sterile skies. We can’t care for flight now, just roots

deep­sunk and making for subtle courses. Underneath
there’s still room for travelling if you can stick the dark

where longing is primal—a necessity of landscape
and open water. Going against it could be liberating

like a want to be ferrous, to begin by rusting back.

 

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Strung
after Barbara Hepworth

He separates your profiles with a two­eyed ghost, split
by one fluid line of definition. Now show him

what your strings are for. Early, it could be an incised line
a description of our bodies—singular, entwined.

These stones could be for dancing or for dying and you
don’t care which, only that there’s a world of great

torsos grown in trees, granite to be hollowed like wombs
we’ll be pulled from, organic. Still, do not discard

the hard lines, geometry, concrete shape. Get me strung
with linear poise, its sun—refraction, direction.

Know to pluck me as your harp. I will be your stone.

 

(first published in Haverthorn Magazine Volume 1, Issue 2, October 2015)

 

 

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Lighthouse

For now let me drag the horses from their beds
and gift them to you open­palmed. Keep watch.

I am a wild breath held beneath that wing span,
the uncertain landing of her shadow on the sand.

This sweet grit does nothing for you but it works
to engrave your fingerprints in mine. These days

it’s everything we hope for. Still, it’s less than us.
For now then, be preserved. Let the citrus sky

get weakened, cold. These months are for moons.

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Lazarus
for DB

If I cannot rise, bury me
in the folds of something
like a murmuration—starlings
coding, recoding the sky
in ways we want to decipher;
watch the pulse, the echo.

Feel the breeze, weaved
like flax as we dance the sun
down, let the dark flood in
until we recede, fold in.
The song of us will fall
to silence. Tomorrow picks it
from our feet.