Cusp

 
Puzzle of bones, try to take time
out of a watch, stop sundown.
It’s all the same weave, all warm 
from the compost, erasing
the written page to blankness.

In the morning, the shadow
of a hawk split the yard.
Inside your ear, mother’s voice—
stay away from that wall
or you’ll fall, you’ll feel, you’ll see
over
. There’s another world inside.

In your pocket, you carry twelve black
stones, rosary of willing deceit,
accounting of misspent deeds.
If sand fills your mouth, spit. If salt
burns like a flame inside you,
ignite
. Any shard can split
open your precious whole.

There is a crust, a crypt, a bomb
crouched inside. You witnessed blue
fragments of birds stabbed crimson
by black beak. Maybe it is blood.
Maybe it is only berries, too
ripe. Everything tumbles.

 

 

 

Receding

 
If by wearing white she meant
to invoke a balance—purity
weighed against death—then
she failed to reckon on rain.

All day long water streamed
from rooftop to carve the snow
into brief and delicate spans
which collapsed into cinders.

It sounded like a thousand
flutes at the moment the young
girls take a breath, their lips
still against metal. She paged

through books looking for the distance
between inheritance and wheel tracks.
Paper beneath her fingers
adding up to the shush of stone ridge

revealed as the glacier retreats.
Where can she unhouse her heart
and allow it to be a ghost
in the attic of this long story?

 

 

 

Erin Coughlin Hollowell lives in Cordova, Alaska — a small town on Prince William Sound inaccessible by road. She received her MFA from the Rainier Writing Workshop at Pacific Lutheran University and her BA from Cornell University. Most recently she has been published in Blue Earth Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, and Weber Studies. She has work forthcoming in Crab Creek Review. She was commissioned by the University of Alaska to co-write a play in verse entitled Bedsheets for the Alaska Humanities Forum.

Graphic of silhouette of birds in tree by Alexandra Giese, courtesy Shutterstock.

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