After the shooting, after the helicopters-for-days circled our house then left, the owls we’d never heard but must have been there all along leaned in toward the house; like lamplight homed toward our small predictable messes, saying what we could not, the body’s bellow, choral from the damp cedar from the hard planks of the heart— there are two hearts: one for kindness, one for grief— and their staying in had nothing to do with us, the figures in the house, tending though their calls felt like sap easing the shock, but because they’d been opened to their own kind of terror in the air they lowered to our windows, watchful, tuning the wrecked sky back to stillness.
Nacelle and Turn
The windmills station the desert as though they have come here of their own accord.
Sentience or indifference, they vessel and crank what exactly
100 seasons in a field of quiet the knowledge of machines restive and spun,
silent noise of all that motion. The desert’s question is always what do you want to let go?
Blanch and scree, the vista scoured clean and you can tumble your guilt horse, darkest compass
across the playa rearview. It will wear your leavings down to a howl. I want to believe in many things—
health, justice, the moon— but all that wind moving invisibly it would carve itself
on the rocks if it could. To see it gathering circle circle circle,
is to see space flow how inside the wind there is something else moving,
I want to believe that this is optimism, alien world.
Wind under the Skin
house full of crickets, moon slung low in the birches
good night the clock with its one good eye
do not keep watch over the tossing bed the
uncorked wine a wind large as a country
roils up the coast we will wake to hacked
palms and silence the locked door
buckles crickets scatter the floor
like dropped coins how much
of the body is sail, how much anchor?
In the House of Seals
Ano Nuevo Lighthouse Ruins
Abandoned on its eroded jetty, the Victorian is gutted by windbreak, waves and the pale ash of salt and plaster. A clean wind howls up the spiral stair, rattling the vacant dumbwaiter, the picture window, walls bleached in sheets of raw sun. What keeper’s lantern once swung the veranda to meet the shore- tossed plot, what wrack and beckon of Pacific tide is now pilgrimage for elephant seals. Given a home, they return to the mecca of their kind paddle into the blown out façade to birth and die in heaps of tender slack, skin like buckled wallpaper. Dear sitting rooms of milk and bone: life keens starkly forward while the dying nurse the dead. Who knows what will become of us receding behind white curtains and what bright ruins might lean from the pitch of night to shelter us? To be so wanted in the work of decay. If given a home, I’ll take this home. If given a soul, I’ll shepherd it on the backs of seals held in the bellows of a graysound love.
Jennifer K. Sweeney is the author of three poetry collections: Little Spells, release in 2015 by New Issues Press;How to Live on Bread and Music, which received the James Laughlin Award, the Perugia Press Prize, and a nomination for the Poets’ Prize; and Salt Memory. The recipient of a Pushcart Prize, a grant from the San Francisco Arts Commission, and a Hedgebrook residency, nonfiction appeared recently in The Washington Post, and poems have recently appeared in The Adroit Journal, American Poetry Review, The Awl, Cimarron Review, Crab Orchard, New American Writing, Puerto del Sol, Stirring, Thrush, and Verse Daily.