Wednesday Feb 21

SaitoBrynncreditKurtRichter Brynn Saito is the author of The Palace of Contemplating Departure, winner of the Benjamin Saltman Poetry Award from Red Hen Press and finalist for the 2013 Northern California Book Award. She also co-authored, with Traci Brimhall, Bright Power, Dark Peace, a chapbook of poetry from Diode Editions (2013). Brynn’s work has been anthologized by Helen Vendler and Ishmael Reed; it has also appeared in Virginia Quarterly Review, Ninth Letter, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and Pleiades. Currently, Brynn lives and teaches in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her second book of poems will be published by Red Hen Press in the spring of 2016.


No History

No history of suicide or insomnia
in my family   Histories
of bottles   fermenting blues
No history of oil   or industry
in my family   No legacy of leaning
over sunlit terraces   telling the masses
exactly what to do               

History of luck and guns
in my family   scribbled in dust  
Stone-colored snow-covered countries  
in my family   Crows fleeing bodies
split   into two—

Body-as-country   Country-as-promise
a-promise     I begin   like an agent
to get it all down—

Histories of deliverance and delicate
walking around volatile
fathers     Histories of altars   Histories
of daughters praying   in moonlight  
playing their hands in the streets  
of new cities     Cities like saviors
for the bold   lucky few

Sanger, CA, 1973

My father’s in the back of a pick up selling fruit
on the roadside with his nephews
in the fire-haze of summer.

Time before I was born, time before all of this
came into being—the kingdom of childhood, the girls’
education, the girls squandering girlhood

on baseball shards and mud gardens.
I want to imagine it all back, walk like a memory
up to the dusty truck, buy forty-five fat

and bloody melons as an act of advanced
apology. Me and the boys would talk about sports,
disparage the heat we love only

in secret. We’d watch my father haul box-loads
of vine fruit into the carriage,
wishing on lightning we could be that strong.

In the Other World


You are young again   Your father has not gone
to the bar tonight   You do not have to find him    You do not
have to call around     asking for him     You’re a girl-spark firefly  
making your rounds across the field     at dusk     Dark descending
like a pool of freshwater     in a foreign country
in summertime     You ease into your life    You ease into the person
you were born to become     The shepherd on tour
with the guest artists   The carefree candy collector  
The cormorant downriver     dipping downstream

I see you in the other world   with a small group of citizens  
huddled over a candle   dreaming wildly   eating
strawberries   sipping Lucky Strike   You pace the night streets
pledging your survival     Singing     Sweeping away
the fliers after a long night     of calling out     You called out
for justice  You’re fearless as a necklace   torn from the body
thrown to the wind

In the other world     history has not   circumscribed
your spirit     You’re so close to freedom    
you can taste it on the salt-winds   Your spirit is a songstress    
occupying the sea

Poem for the Shadow of an American Boy

Never tell a woman you've got murder
            inside you, never let the bass overwhelm
                        the treble, remember how your voice

has a history. Never write the coda
          before you find the hook, that is
                        be as good as you can when standing

by a burning car with a girl inside it
            and a boy on the roadside making wishes.
                        Be good to the doves cooing nocturnes

through your window, though I know
            you'll want to kill them, I've seen
                        that kind of rage, it makes my mouth

fill with ash. One day you'll wake wondering
            where your mind went, what it held to
                        when the body shook, why the body

betrays the spirit's quest over and over.
            Swaths of time like cut ribbons of seawater
                        to thrash around in. Silent sky at dawn.

The muscle in your chest beating
            2/4 time against the breath's 4/4.
                        On such mornings if you're lucky

the one beside you will be breathing
            in half-notes, composing with her shoulders
                        or composing with his shoulders

the prelude to your redemption.


Photo Credit: Kurt Richter