I am twelve tall standing stones, I am
the peaty dirt covering them almost to their tips,
I am the airy something hovering in their midst
as you hike to the fell-top on Ilkley Moor.
I am a dashed circle on your rambler’s map:
think of the spaces between meanings
as windows to a beyond far beyond the reach
of your people’s memory. Discarded food wrappers
mingle with the heather like prayer notes
addressed to any of the possible powers lingering here.
If you wish for me to appear to you
out of these layers of forgetfulness,
I require you to offer more
than the empty skins of your snacks
and hollow vessels of your libations. Give me
the potato crisps and the sweets themselves;
leave me not just core and crust, but the whole apple
and loaf; pour your gold ale onto the soil.
And when you kneel to sip from the birch-circled spring
marked by a fallen-down mound of small stones,
at whose mouth tiny ferns uncurl their ivory fronds
like pale intuitions of an elsewhere, try to guess
that it’s I whispering myself out of the fellside,
speaking of origins beyond the range of your seeing,
I carrying your history downdale, downriver,
while your memory carries less
than the weight of paper, strewn.
Prayer of the Head of Christ in Granite from Cathedral in Chartres, France at Chapel of the Holy Cross in Sedona, Arizona
My Father, whose art is on display
all through this Oak Creek Valley as red-rock buttes
of Coconino sandstone, into which this chapel
is chiseled, how did I come to this place?
I sense Your Spirit spinning in every crumb
of Sedona dust and in every limestone layer
dyed blood-red by volcanic iron oxides—
but I remember little of the World-War violence
that severed my granite head from my granite body
and, via L.A. art dealer, delivered it, suffering, here.
I hear the nuns and docents point tourists
toward the rain-carved Madonna and Child
You shaped from the viscera of the mountain
above this chapel. They exclaim the likeness
is unmistakable. But I cannot look upward
to see those Permian other selves, my neck
unhinged and my Precambrian countenance
downcast as it is, in my decapitated extremis.
Does Your will erode here though it be done
in Heaven? This day, unblast me; lead me back
to the Cathédrale and restore to me whatever is left
of my body. From there I will journey to my original
kingdom in the quarry at Berchères-l’Evêque,
to deliver myself to the womb of the earth.
Nocturne with Construction Site and Swainson’s Thrushes
Samish Hill, Bellingham, Washington
Tonight, as the gibbous moon waxes
over a newly poured foundation
in this tract of twelve soon-to-be luxury view homes,
where last year and in years past, stands of woods
housed birds’ nests, huckleberries, and black-tailed deer,
the air recovers from the clatter of the concrete trucks
just now jolting away—
then, the surprise song of two Swainson’s thrushes:
summerers, Salish salmonberry-birds,
singing of their annual arrival home
in the few remaining cedars and firs,
songs of nine to twelve syllables spiraling upwards,
some with an extra trill even higher-pitched,
curlicued, fluting, feather-tipped.
Jennifer Bullis is author of Impossible Lessons (MoonPath, 2013). Recent poems are appearing in Water~Stone Review, Cherry Tree, Cave Wall, and Under a Warm Green Linden. She is librettist for a cantata in the voices of the Sirens commissioned by Seattle Baroque Orchestra, and her manuscript of resistance poems, The Tongue of Narcissus, was a finalist for the Brittingham & Pollak Prizes.