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.

 

 

 

Lift

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?

 

 

 

Scorch

1.

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

 

2.

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.

 

3.

 

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.

 

4.

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
deadfall.

 

5.

 

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.

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