Construction Literary Magazine

Fall 2020

Two Poems

Two Poems

Photograph via Flickr by Mambo'Dan

Thunder Suite

The sky today begins gray
and stretches
away from me.

When I was ten salmon swam
just past my reaching arm
on the riverbank
where nettle and thistle tangled
against my jeans,
against my sister’s feet.

Raw: heat, legs
aching. You start
with your hands:
first on the manger
of my hips, as if to see a baby
waiting there.

The sky coughs, hackles,
jerks like a fish spawning,
spinning off a rocky
fall of water.

The sisters give up
on fish and pick berries,
purple-black orbs stuck
together like eggs:
the blood stains their arms.
Overhead, crows are envious
and cirrus washes
the blue down to its skin:
shale, scoured. The sisters
promise things. Neither can speak
crow, but they both try.

Sun is a burden
on my cheeks which seem these days
to stick out so far from my face, my whole face
a bird with chunks of wing, or fins
that hit stones,
the river is so low.
I wait for clouds
to return.

On the other side of the lawn,
hail bounces against iris shoots,
moves new tulip leaves into the shape
of seaweed, creek moss.

Next summer looms like a dead carp
on the horizon. I can’t see far enough to say
whether those orange spots are marigolds or the wide
red sores of a mouth made hard by knowledge.

Love is what the thunder does:
knocking chunks of sky
against one another until both groan,
forget where they came from.
I’d follow you
through a desert. There is a star
like a salmon’s eye
that blinks, or a mica flake
which reflects the sun.

We sleep. Worms wind the room in silk.
Black birds weave my shed hair
with mist, pin it
to the bottom of my skirt
so when the wind blows
I’ll know direction is just another way
of saying come home.

In the next room, the sisters
have walked along the river for miles,
waiting for the fish
to jump out into their arms.

To Understand the Salmon

Its flesh is a topo map
you have forgotten
in a drawer
of a desk you used to use
for writing poems,

but have now left in an upstairs
room where the walls have trees
growing along the banks,
their shadows just the right shape
for a cloud. You have to go into

that flesh like you are entering
a forest full of hills
where you would like to live.
In the room where I have written
poems there is a girl’s dresser,

brown weeds growing across
its knobs. It is like pulling
open a field when I open
any drawer in this room,
ground water spilling

as it did the morning
my body broke open
and a river soaked
the sheets. I washed them
before leaving for the hospital,

not thinking I might like to sift
a riverbed for minerals. Salmon
and gold can float
the same streams. Since my daughter
was born I haven’t been fishing,

I haven’t even watched them swim
upstream. This fall we will stand
on the banks and let our feet
sink in the mud. We will watch
for the fin like a volcano cutting

through clouds. We will think
of how descent happens:
first the rain, the sheetwash, rivulets,
the wild rending of the mountain,
its large pink mouth.