Fall 2007, Volume 24.1
Grace Danborn lives and writes in Juneau, where she works for the Alaska coalition of domestic violence shelters. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The Georgia Review, Natural Bridge, and Blue Earth Review, among others. A graduate of Eastern Washington University’s MFA program, she has taught there and at Gonzaga University. She recently received The Florida Review’s 2007 Editors’ Award for poetry.
The Russian Olives
press to sky, their branches slim ellipses.
The black windows are mirrors
and I can’t afford to see this winter
morning reflected in my eyes.
Anne Sexton called it
the pestilential rat, that part of her
that remained small and rotten
in the face of goodness. I walk
to the river, descend
seventy steps to its banks. At each
platformed landing, more
darkness. My hands shine
white, small coins in a pocket.
There is always something to miss,
no matter where you are. I would pay
the brittle world to tell me: Stand.
Be rooted. Be still. I’ve planted my feet to ground
but they lift again, they will not stay,
and the truth is trees move and are known
by what moves them.
When we are still we want
And the river just bends
beneath trees that lift light.
She has practiced dancing away
from blunt objects that hang in space
before falling, surreal as Dali’s watches
or the feelings that hammer her
when he tells her of the railroad. Such stories.
Creosote and splintered sky,
wind fingering grasses between the ties.
She knows she loves him then.
The blue glass breaks against wall
and she recalls the merry-go-round
colors blurring by as she braided
her arms through the rail.
The ground would not stop spinning.
The dusking window shows her light
leaving sky. Night chimes in the trees
remind her of the cicadas in Arizona,
before the rains came: When she asked
for a bouquet of yucca and sage, he cut
his thumb with the knife. She staked the tent alone.
Across the street, an old man waters whiskey
barrels that burst pale with azaleas.
Their pearled blossoms gleam like teeth.
She Asks Me About Religion
casually, the way we’ve talked about Johnny
Cash and kayaking and I tell her about roosters
and Peter and those passwords
for on-line banking that I can never remember,
the ones that send me shamed
to the local branch to plead for a second
chance, a new identity
we discuss the terrible earnestness
of my youth, how I offered myself
like a nickel slicked with rain
I am even aware of the irony
of referring to my youth
in my twenty-sixth year
when confusion aches
like a snowbank,
like something I’ll walk through
later because Zoe says your thirties are full
of shovels and assurance
maybe there’s a place for those stories
of dirt and sandals and splintered
blood, the heart a netted fish
flipping toward the Lord,
the schools of fishermen flat
against the rain-soaked slats of their trade
the blue obedience of women, the fig trees,
the souls winging away from their bodies
to gather as a flock of geese?
speaking of birds, I can get behind
the Holy Spirit—a dove that whitens
to brightness and flame, or wind—
all that breath arranging grasses
we consider the trinity:
what a weight for one bird,
to carry a man on each wing
I tell her how I hold baptism
like an umbrella when walking
through sunshine and wheat
maybe I can see the value in fear,
trembling votives in glass,
the quiet beads passing
through my mother’s hands
from what must I be saved?
I am not against leaping, entirely—