Wednesday Feb 21

Gee-Poetry Melody S. Gee’s first poetry collection, Each Crumbling House, won the Perugia Press Book Prize and was published in 2010. Her poems and essays are published or forthcoming in The Collagist, Blackbird, Copper Nickel, and Crab Orchard Review, among others. A Pushcart Prize nominee, winner of the Robert Watson Literary Prize for poetry, and a 2008 Kundiman Asian American Poetry Retreat fellow, she currently teaches writing at St. Louis Community College and lives with her husband and daughter in St. Louis, MO.
No one knows what birds can remember.
And yet, to every house
two always return, mouths full of nesting
glue from blue island wintering.
A village leaves windows unscreened and kitchen
rafters clear for another year’s pair. And if
the swallows are late, so is the planting,
so the entire season.
Every year runs a different length,
measured in scythes of returning wings.
Every year stretches and releases
time in restless trumpeting approaches.
Rice planting is wet work. Ankles deep
in paddies to dig up, bundle,
and toss seedlings into new beds,
like moving infants from their cribs.
Water softens the heels like it softens
the burned bottom of a pot,
eventually releasing one surface
from another—crust from pan, or the first
layer of skin from flesh.
Each day the heart slows, the body
releases its time.  Each sunrise takes
minutes off. If a body gives in

to delay, the late sewn rice still
uncoils its reed, the grain
still starches the belly, and still a body
can lie down in provincial dusk,
a few minutes gathered
and scattered into the rows it digs.
What strand of mandevilla does not reach
blue flower, we cut.  And the ones full
or nearing bloom, we cut.
To overwinter, we hang the shrubs bald
and upside down in the dark.
Some dormant life remains to drink
a gallon every two weeks.
By March, they will take soil again.
Perhaps neither they nor we should grow
where we cannot shorten our own roots.
Perhaps there are mouths of land we cannot have
if we cannot scale back our branches
or seal our own cracks.  Already we know
we cannot slow our pulse to wait out
hunger. Our young cry in all seasons.
Neither can the mandevilla stop
sending flowers to bud, even into the iced air,
even for fear that every petal will release
and make no mark where it lands.