Read guest editor Joanna Klink's introduction.

 


The Sheepfold

Frost came finally into the cabin and bit by bit over the windows
The cataracts of snow with their dismantling shadows
Hands over all the things inside

As if dipped into the pool of earth from one above
And rank with inscrutable perfumes
Winter that year came with such a grace

For the beauty was fierce and kept at the heels
Of each soul-crushing thing—
To tend and herd the sorrows further in

 


Disinherited We Weep for Dust

Yellow touches me to pieces
this night, unkindly
with a stranger's queasiness.

I feel distantly ill
held like a canary a bit too tight

or a gold watch bursting in a
plain of heath.

As you are friendless now
and buried in spirits
and the earth's smell of turning

like the rain,
not even empathy can reach you.

My feelers search instead
beneath the moors

touching at some inscrutable
thing, wrenched between the stones
and mute loam, touching back at me

like sound, like the thin mews
of a violin.

If I could only speak to it the red halls
of my throat might cleave like lilies.

 


Insectan Order

with only my pale blue instinct I
pushed aside the crate's coinage
and brushed the queerer circlet
shoved beneath straw:

the creature was awake,
a lithe glint of coil, amber-eyed,
wasp pupil, a crown.

my hand on it
closed

                      or was it:

seized and taken, my hand

and how did it go, my memory asks
of the cells' swarm of parts and
reassembly:

set the gold upon my brow, then

from system to system the eyes
of one dissolve the eyes of another.

I recall it was nothing of madness,
but cannot recall how:

black block of bodies and the wonted
speed of us, our venoms poised inside
our motions with grace, such intimate
acquaintance with the breeze, the wide
balconies of leaves:

beneath the crown I
became a thousand swift masteries
of another order:

how many circles inscribed
in a sphere

                                   a geometry
distinctly non-Euclidean

                  ―but this tells nothing, nothing
                               of the voice

who troubled each magnet in us
and pronounced what I cannot
ever again call near,

though it was something like the air
seeking each part of me out,

each wing
each black arm
and mouth,

as if all of it were a single strain

and roaring like waves
one atop the other, its breaching
and astonishment, its song
upon my parts:

who

                        touched

                                                    me

 


Phantasm

Amphibian, is it?

What surprising color,
the light-starved belly turning up
and raising greenness from the spray

A nearing savage skin
where something's writ.

In the runnel tracts it beats
a drum
                   ―what thing is this?

                                 What thing
                                              What thing

                                 Are you such
                                 that I remember you?

 


River Beneath

All this time the world
has escaped belonging.

                      I say to the green
                      scent of wind : what's belonging?

These crops still rising
obscure the place beneath:

perhaps a woman is there.

Often I ask what mercies
such a form can fetch.

She is from the river beneath the river.

There, abound things swimming
and too much bearing of their weight.

I lie there with her in the stream,
marveling, though not wanting
to see the course reeds stiffening
in her hair,

or her eyes with the dusk of our cities
falling down into a sleep of moss.

                      Mostly I look in:

I watch her speaking with blood
to blood

to the animals, to the ripening inside.

 


Talking with Trees

The redemption of a tree! A tree is
without name, a tree is without
any possession whatsoever

but her broad back bent on it
belonged there—

Her sounds
drenched the leaves

the infinite burns

and her hand uncurtaining
in the thick mask of skins

Trunk to trunk—
and the rattling leaves said be with us

 


Full of Strange Experience

The hours tumble down from a geode's seam.
Bits catch the light, some shapes edge
against the mind's tendrils, and experience
catches like rain in a cobble rift―

It is november, I can hear the tearing
of the crust, the gristbite below us
working in its sleep, and another afternoon
I am sprawled over mattress,
a stupor of color almost in reach.

It is hours after the planks have quit me.

I could not walk to the next room:
not now,

not when the crown makes me swarm.

And the body alone is a labyrinth,
room within room: root,
                                                  ruby
                                                                   hive.

 


Between the Buildings

Drills screamed in the grey hands of men
suspended up among the wires

Bulbs flicking darkness
to the strung-up houses and floors

Wafted up—the jiggering strains
of motors, hulking canopied beds

Rattling with dimension
the worker's roars—

It was all in gear when I slipped between
two buildings for quiet, all unceasing above

When the sudden woman
bursting out from between the walls—

Flogged me—two black marbles gleaming
and a wild intensity:

A face of overripe biologies,
distended cortex of a brain, two fists

And chops having hungered in the hollows.
The gears above kept on churning noise—

I thought for a moment I could hear
the black sod buried under everything,

Its dampening breast
too deep

To take up my sounds:
Lung-struck, smack of limbs, red wind

Instrument of neck—
all crunched into the steam's

Hiss, noisy brass, the small wirings
singing like locusts from every panel:

Death came
unobtrusive, scarcely noted.

What could I do but wander into its silence?
For the city rose around me

it was there before my birth
men building it even as I left it:

The towers leaning toward me. The fat walls
gorged on their own enamel histories—

Between those devouring clutches:
my mind

streaming out, my mind imagining
more than the mind could imagine on its own,
the mind spilling out of abstraction,
the timeless turning, turning—

The wind entering my body
so at last I could taste the Earth
The crude salts packed in clay

I passed the bright things of the sea
Those glistening bodies
deep with whalesong

I passed their intelligent eyes and mouths
their broad arms that cut the water
their complicated brains shaped like eternity

I passed infinitely each particle of planet

I gave my feet to the marsh of fire
I burned,

I burned
until I came finally again to myself:

To blood in the ears,
the drum of the extinct

To the last wild river
of my dying

At last—my dying

And the centuries of men moving down
like grains in the arms of ants.

 

 


Stephanie Rose Adams is the author of The Sundering, selected by Linda Gregg for a 2009 New York Chapbook Fellowship. Her poems have appeared in Guernica Magazine, The Boston Review, Orion Magazine, and others; she is also a frequent contributor of nonfiction to Sharkpack Poetry Review. In addition to her work in poetry, Stephanie is working on a collection of photographs and lyric essays about her experiences with ethnic Hmong families in northern Vietnam. Stephanie lives in the Pacific Northwest where she teaches poetry, serves on the board of The Whole Dog Academy, and continues to develop the ultra-top-secret Secret Message Project (www.secretmessageproject.wordpress.com).

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