Sunday Jul 14

WahmanholmClaire Claire Wahmanholm's poems most recently appear in 32 Poems, The Boiler, Waxwing, and Unsplendid, and are forthcoming from Best New Poets 2015, Handsome, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, The Journal, Parcel, The Kenyon Review Online, BOAAT, Sugared Water, and Third Coast. She is a PhD student at the University of Utah, where she co-edits Quarterly West. Visit her author website.


You fell through ballrooms of bare water,
blossoms of salt gardens. With your crow voice
you noted each ocean zone: first blueness,
second blueness, first cyan, second cyan,
then cerulean, Persian, ultramarine, then
sapphire, zaffre. Your crow voice was no longer
a voice but a small underwater explosion.
Bubbles of coral in your throat, the webbing
of your hair. But you had been turning to stone
long before you fell. At night, on land,
you had been fossilizing. All day, walking
through sun fields, you had not felt
the florets of grasses between your fingers.  
You had not felt the florets crumble into pebbles
behind you. Now time is stacking you-shaped
spaces above you in the water. You do not wonder
about this feeling’s relation to blue, to falling
into deep water. You do not wonder what is deep.
Or what is blue.


We do not remember the rescue,
how in the blue water we clutched
the broken wing and waited
for retrieval’s soft mouth until
the salt no longer stung our skin,
until our skin was seawater, dense
and ion-swollen.
                           Below us, the abyssal plain
pulled the hulls of dead whales
toward its chest. It takes a body
days of falling to reach that
lungless field. It takes months
of fish mouths for a body to become
bone. No rescue came.
                                      For days we fell
that weightless, clear fall. Then settled
into our own rich kingdoms of fat
and sulfur, our own oil fields.
From our black mollusk houses
our edible voices flashed like
pulsars as we called to each other.
By the hot black vents we were called home.


We walk into the lavender forest. Wrist
to curled fingers we hold each other.   We play
telephone from caboose to line leader.             Fire,
we whisper into the hot velvet
of our neighbor’s ear. Fear.  

Each inch between us is
tender, lilac-lighted. Each finger is a matchstick struck.

In the lavender forest, leaves snap like bones.             Any slough of
bark is hazardous
as wildfire.       In this forest, we learn to touch each
other very lightly, like ash on a skin of snow,            like a snow-
flake on the skin of a freezing lake.   

                     At night,
our dreams sprout moats of thorns that keep us gullied inside
of ourselves, bivalves
in human
coats.   Our names fell from us like feathers long ago, so
we only
know each other by our smell: creosote, eucalyptus, sulfur. Deeper

and deeper we follow
our odor
into the lavender forest. We walked into it and stayed a long time. Tame
is the name for the way we
touch our moss fingers to each other’s faces,            is the name some-
one gave us after they hollowed out our eyes and led us here, where

lavender is nothing we can picture, where
fire is the feeling one of us whispered to the others     as his
throat burst into blossom,       flame.

On Making One’s Passage through the Dark

Making their way through the woods at night, your two hearts sometimes split
to follow two forks of a dark path. They stretch their nerves toward each other
as they part until the woods are full of the sound of their reaching. The dark rolls
of birchbark flutter with it. The dark throats of bats.
                                     Making their ways through
the woods at night, your two hearts sometimes twitch and spook into a run, calling
for each other, fumbling for a clearing where there is none.
                                          Your hearts’ nerves
cobweb the woods as they move together and apart. One heart harvests oak bark
glowing with rot and foxfire. The other heart imagines itself as a match moving
through a warm field of hay. All night they push together and away, your foxfire
heart pulsing with a cold light. Your hay heart pining after sparks.