Each morning of my stay I walk down to the lake, carrying my empty bowl. A line of beached canoes lies tipped on the cut grass, hulls gray
as the low sky. No one ever seems to take them out. The lake rests undisturbed, flatly reflecting the mountains
that rise from its far shore, their steep flanks half-sheared of Douglas fir, slashed by logging roads that veer improbably straight up. I hardly look
at the mountains. I’m in the brambles, reaching for blackberries so large you might mistake them for plums, and by some miracle
even in this sun-less September, enough replenished each morning to fill my bowl. For three days the air is acrid with smoke held down by cloud.
Then overnight the wind changes, and the sky lifts like a blue wing above new distance. There, behind and above the slopes
I thought mountains, the real mountain rises, as if fulfilling a promise I didn’t know had been made. The lake turns white
with its reflection. It is like the evening hour when the day-long drone of trucks and chainsaws finally halts and a massive silence swings open.
The next morning, a blue haze, the mountain gone again. But now I feel how the whole landscape shifts toward the submerged weight of it,
as the heart tilts toward a prayer too heavy to put into words. Toward a hope not even named as prayer. The common hope of a whole people, that large.
All morning in mid-labor not ready for the hospital
walking the floodplain
the earth still soft waters receded
tulip poplars knotted sycamores clumps of grass
ghosted with silt
the trees leaned downstream from many floods
I clung to them
my sisters I thought if I thought at all somehow the term did not seem wrong
the ground was washed bare
fibrous roots exposed
slack water dusty with pollen
we walked and rested and walked again
to each contraction as it came
some bright bit of blue caught on the far bank
without panic I felt each crest carry me farther away from you
away from familiar ground
in the spaces between
the air on my face—
perhaps I was the trees
their massive trunks shifting as wind poured through high branches
perhaps I was the riverbed
or the light as it pulsed between moving leaves
from all about us a wordless insistence
deep in my interior the forest the water rising
Tundra Swans at the Great Marsh
At any moment half the swans are airborne, birds loping awkwardly into heavy flight only to veer back for another splashdown, wakes unzipping the sky’s half-frozen image. Over everything floats the constant, urgent clamor of their multitudinous calling, layered voices airy with an arctic emptiness brought to this protected edge of a landscape rivered by highways, its parking lots glittering like open water from the air. Another winter at the refuge, though projections show their winter territory leaping north within ten years. There’s no permanence. Just this cacophonous splendor, the children too now running in circles, flapping and shouting, birds wheeling and landing and rising, the winter marsh all wind and current and wing.
Emily Tuszynska lives in Virginia, just outside Washington D.C., where she often explores the suburban stream valleys and pockets of forest with her three children. Her poetry can be found in many journals, recently including Prairie Schooner, Ligeia, The Georgia Review, Indiana Review, and Poetry Northwest.