I run far & fast & I’m gone like the light, a switch
I turn off every morning next to the outdoor sinks.
My vision blurs with unintentional color & light swallowed,
a pattern that replaces the hurt; how the music doesn’t matter or
the music is all that matters. Where are the answers? Sometimes,
someone beats me to it. I looked again & there you were: a beacon.
The diamonds, the circles in only my field of vision circling out.
I’m in a field, but it’s a discipline. I’m in a field, but it’s a wall instead,
a wall under the staircase to the left of the festival stage &
you’re pressing me up against it & you’re holding my small hands
in your big hand above my head & pressing them up against it &
I’ve never loved you more, every day more & more & more since then.
Write me into a corner; text me back—unblock me. The auras spin, a sign.
The last time I saw her, she was down & I was low & leaving but not running,
really. The last time I saw her, some sort of sparkle wasn’t there--
I thought it was me, that I’d done something wrong. Maybe it was.
Now I know I missed a hug I’ll never get & now, right now,
I know how much I don’t matter. How much the music matters.
I mattered to a black dog dying on a futon in a trailer, eight states away,
my voice in his ear over the phone & its static, I love you so much, I said,
& I don’t know what else. His bones are so far away.
I never got to press my hand into his soft fur again.
I am consumed by these patterns & visions & if I didn’t know better,
I would say I know nothing, literally nothing at all, except
I should eat this apple, except I need to drink some water.
To take care of myself. Take care.
WE WERE BORN IN THE AFTERNOON
When she toppled out earthside, the sun but no windows.
How light came anyway—a macrocosm & microcosm of royalty,
lower-case god as podcast guest dressed in blood & yuck.
In the heat of the Louisiana March sun, in the
respite of the Massachusetts Native post-winter cold,
within a complete spinning wheel of quotation marks.
The completion of a family, two chickens, two dogs.
Evermore, asking, asking: what’s gravity’s score?
Holy, holy, eternal opinion, eternal spotlight, the ones
that flip on at night when something moves out there.
Eternal present, eternal past, blast the future away. Already,
she is bankrupt as tomorrow but smiling, all grace. Teachers, remember,
would warn us on microfilm how the sun would someday die, our own star
with its own name, but they forgot to tell us we wouldn’t outlast it.
ARS POETICA; OR, WHAT WE ARE MADE OF IN THE END
The freezer is home to a house wren
slipped into a waxy eggroll bag. I wish
this were a metaphor, but poetry doesn’t have time
to parse reality’s mundane stupidities:
dead birds haunting everyday appliances, the toddler
& her plastic picnic, a man—her father— asleep
in the afternoon. I was once a girl, too, & in love
with a butterfly, Papilio glaucus. I bent down
to pick up paper & instead, a flutter of wings.
After pink bathroom flying lessons, a mirror
of light, she died musty. I saved her body for years
in an increasingly worn Ziplock bag.
What I knew of death was prescribed, was
salt, comfort as marinade & familiarity, like
throwing my bookbag behind the couch
no matter how many people were parked outside.
And then a new noise in the kitchen, a live wren,
(looking for her frozen friend?) flapping,
toppling the child’s playthings. I open the door & say,
don’t worry, don’t worry, you’ll figure it out. To her, to me.
To whoever is awake or listening. I want a future, I say,
where you find your way out. Where we find a way.
There is always a snake, but no one says
what kind. Sometimes there is a sword
that is really a snake. Cutlass. Saber.
Viper. Copperhead. Sometimes
there is just a snake skin. Sometimes
only a sheath. If there is a bird,
it’s the sound of birds. If it’s vultures
or ravens, they say vultures. Ravens.
If it’s sparrows or wrens, robins or jays,
they say birds. We say birds.
The sound of a body against glass.
I google, what color is bird blood.
Another, another, another.
Where are they coming from.
Why do they seek disaster & then
attempt to flee like this isn’t
what they wanted, not what they meant
at all. Red. They have red blood.
The child is made of dough, of stars, of the cardinal
at the feeder. She is made of rushed linebreaks
& unsteeped tea leaves, of green & sport
& sunny day clouds. The child is made of
reassuring misinformation, lace (crocheted by a relative
but we can’t remember whom), of commas,
quillons, venom, of rhyme & soda & song.
We are made of the child but too often
we forget, get mixed up, believe it to be
the other way around.
Kimberly Ann Southwick is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing and English at Jacksonville State University. Her first full-length collection, Orchid Alpha, is forthcoming from Trembling Pillow Press. Kimberly is the founder and Editor in Chief of the literary-arts journal Gigantic Sequins. Find her on twitter @kimannjosouth or visit kimberlyannsouthwick.com for more.