Morning light through ponderosa pines

Three Poems by Natalie Rice

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Morning Slit of Light

At the end

 of a long driveway winding


through ponderosas, I listen
to the birds, the creek, the birds eating


chokecherries. I’ve begun to lean
into what cannot be explained. Slit of morning light

through a thousand red pine needles. Absences


are not love or black horses

  or stones. They are music.


Three pileated woodpeckers
are a heart murmur through the forest.
I want to feel alone but don’t. What I remember


is not September wind, aspens, the light luminous

and hidden, but my contradictions,

   how the unsayable


hung like a red berry in the back

of my throat.





The cabin is surrounded by sloughs that swell

the bridge, fill the gulley with water, with swans,

cranes, and ducks. Everything is afloat.
The cabin faces south. Drinks the sun.


The windows are high enough to see the treeline

of Washout Mountain. I fill my mouth
with words like moss, stone, storm, slip. Wet

meadows search for more light,


more water. Stay here long enough
and my body will become a skin-on-frame

boat—my lungs stretch, become the canoe

shape, bend into the deepening


blue-green rush. Who can withstand

this loon-sense, this fluttering?






Beneath a fir

trickling sap, I’m tempted
to say: give me back
my opalescent tears.


There are shapes, tall and inky

against the windless valley.

Grass is a fire


before it knows it is a fire. The land

is friendly when I can see this far

between the trees



There may be ash. And smoke.


What about

the moss-covered stones? Aspen leaves


and their endless shaking? A giant silk moth

opens paper birch wings


slowly. Spellwork,


dreamwork. What about


the bitterroot and beetles,

their iridescent bodies? What about


the spectre branches
in moonlight? I keep looking


for where the light ends

but it doesn’t.




My body is

the balsamroot flower.


Joy isn’t a feeling. It’s the way
I emerge from this earth somewhere between

one thought and the next, or cresting


the col into a blaze of yellow

bloom. Petals falling.



I’ve time-lapsed and walked for hours
               around the lip of this burn

but have never spoken
the language that parsed cones
               and seeds to fine ash.

One morning, I heard burnt




There may be dust. And drought.
              I may long for water


and walk far to find a phthalo blue

sky. A thin soot


may fall on everything.

But for now,

              I move quietly


with so much depending

on a field of tall bunchgrass

gathering sun.




Natalie RiceNatalie Rice holds a Master of Fine Arts from the University of British Columbia, Okanagan. She has been published by Gaspereau Press: Devil’s Whim Chapbook Series, The Trumpeter: Journal of Ecosophy, Event Magazine, The Dalhousie Review, The Malahat Review, Contemporary Verse Two, and Lake: Journal of Arts and Environment, and her poem “Murmuration” was longlisted for the CBC Poetry Prize in November 2021. She lives in Kelowna, B.C.

Header photo by Jane Rix, courtesy Shutterstock. is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, art, commentary, and design since 1998.