Read the introduction by guest editor Camille T. Dungy.
from Life Chart: Barn Elegy
There was a pit in the pines
where we threw our fevers.
Many winter footsteps down through the thicket
hand to a clammy forehead
after all day switch out the cabbage leaves
as they warmed against our sister skulls.
Little red dots appeared and disappeared.
Isan held a bear she tried to love
but didn’t. Her nighty damp around the collar.
She tried to be a child
burying her fevers by the sedges
heavier then air
but creepy friends of our parents
but bad falls
concussions on the concrete floor
goose-egg rattled equilibrium
but yarrow in a big pot on the stove.
I imagine them there, heavier than air
drifting along the fall-flattened grass
drowsy viscous dream warping the light
the wind rustle that settled in the hole to a bent pitch
a skewed projection, like voices whispering down the long tunnel of sleep
“I didn’t mean to marry him,
I just settled my soft head among his onions.”
Trail to the outhouse where planks were missing
on one side so the grouse hopped in and pecked at my shins
Nighty a torch in the dark
ghost pressing her tiny feet on the foam mattress in the yard,
the summer bed, now pocked with little longings.
The Pit pulled copper for a wealthy era, dug
deeper into the mineral horizons of itself, a sore,
a heat we dug towards, the rocky
core. And then abandoned, underground rivers
filling each day the hole, a mineral heavy mirror.
In winter a flock of snow
geese landed and drank
from the lake
which is not
a lake, and they died on its surface. feather white ash.
When they cut them open, they found their bodies
seared by burn – cadmium, arsenic, copper.
A different winter
a flock of grebes mistook the mirror
of a frozen lake for open water
and landed in their hundred feathered bodies
like snow across the eye.
Stranded on the ice
without the water’s depth
to dip their feet, propel to air, to on.
A raven noticed, four ravens in the pre-dawn
pecked out each head before sunrise.
Took each body to bury on the shore. Grebe pits. Hunger cache.
Sear a sore in me the valley
once I found a cave
with an effigy of ice
When our home leaves in flame,
snow falls and falls
in that lost timber pit
frozen over like a small pond.
Inside, the house
has gone open-mouthed
to the winter sky frozen over
breakfast uneaten in the gutted cupboard.
Inside, the house
is not my father who sits
on a black plastic bag
of donated clothes
in our friend’s basement,
is not us, who sit beside him
on other trash bags, because it is the first
night and we are not tired.
Inside, my chest
has gone to seed
and falls black ash
blankets my sister
beside me in a new sweater,
our eyes each other’s question
pits we rummage
for any ember
to tell us what is next.
Cedar Brant is the author of the chapbook "Like Any Other Dream Will Do" (FootHills Publishing), and her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Handsome, Whitefish Review, Cedillia, Camas, the anthology "Poems Across the Big Sky (Many Voices Press), and elsewhere. She is the managing editor of Colorado Review, and an MFA candidate at Colorado State University.