Sometimes I sprout wings,
Glide up dunes,
Twirl juniper branches to bramble.
I fly to nightline sky and
God can’t find me in this
Pagan glow of long set sun,
Glass chiffon tendrils
Clung to limbs
Tight from thick air,
Sea salt slickness.
Dark is for fairylights,
Deep from oak hearth
Circle in seagrass meadow,
Crush bayberries beneath feet
Bare and thorned.
Each night we map coastline,
Shift tide to kiss earth,
Pull sandcastles to sleep,
My mother had a horse named Penny
When she lived in Hoosick Falls.
We lived there separately during the same
Years of our lives, teens lost
In hundreds of acres of wood,
Thick with undergrowth and poachers.
The first time I was stung by nettles
I picked each bubble with cuticle cutters
Until clear liquid spilled from skin.
Did I get this from her? The cutting?
Her, with straight razor, slicing
Purple blood-filled hematomas
Spreading to white tissue. Or, when I ate
Too much ginger. My body covered itself
In hives. Mother slept in benzo dreams
Too gone to wake to my fears as my skin
Grew plateaus and valleys, angry and red.
There is no aftermath of my body, just as
There is no body of her, only dark ash
Deep in hallowed ground.
On a pond in upstate New York
Not far from Vermont border,
Four boys boil water on butane
Burners, clear snow from ice
Six inches thick, sun still rising,
They’ve doned thick pad gloves,
School colored scarves, hoodies
Under peacoats, and sunglasses.
Red thermos sinks deep in bank
Plowed with steel tip shovels.
This is the slow work of shaping
Nature, steel edge slipping over
Uncertain depths, scraping stark
White crystals as smoke billows
High in dark gray streaks around,
Hibernation showing its signs.
Not till the sun passes peak do
Boys, leaning on shovels, survey
Cleared misshapen circle, pound
Air, each other’s arms, chock balls
Of snow and grin, task complete.
Only then do covered pots open,
Contents spilt reveals veined glass.
One after one, hot water steams
Smooth, freezes. Four boys now done
With the small labors of youth, open
Gym bags, tie skates tight around ankles,
And glide onto their creation, clean.
About the Writer
Jennifer van Alstyne is a Peruvian-American poet and critic. Recent poetry been published in The Citron Review, COG, Crack the Spine, ELKE, Paper Nautilus, Stonecoast Review, and Sweet Tree Review. She reviews for Colorado Review and Rain Taxi and teaches at University of Louisiana. Find more of Jennifer's writing at https://jennifervanalstyne.com.