I remember how she felt in September,
trekking out from the quiet woods,
across the grass and onto the dock
where afternoon whitecaps broke
over the mossy aluminum ladders
and rusted posts: steadily washing
the smooth stones on the shoreline.
She was blue like the ocean
in the sunshine: breathtaking
when we dived down to clean the sweat
from our bodies – having come so far.
There were delicate pink clouds
just over the fine blade of her horizon
in December as we stood on the frozen
Palisade cliffs and watched white,
liquid fireworks coat the tumbled granite
with a glittering layer of ice. She is always silent,
Lake Superior, despite her rise and fall,
like an old tree: deaf to as many questions
as there are waves far off in the gray distance,
or stars in a great, black sky
when we switch drivers on the deserted
nighttime highway twisting through towering ranks
of pines bent beneath the snow.
Its blue days are numbered
with the passing of autumn,
placing a firm thumb like a war-torn cranium
buckles the spine, to bar my skin
from the depressurized combustion
of a disrobed moonwalker – mercurial
as the scattered atoms of the interstellar.
This is how I know God: by the palm
of his windswept heaven.
Not gravity. Just the overturned hourglass
of my body assembled in the continual
stethoscopic press of atmosphere, gauging
those vital places – how they hold up
in such heaviness, slow
march of years. It begs life
and gives it; so much of Atlas
prerequisite in the shape, axiomatic as breath,
I never knew I was looking for.
It isn’t that,
not really, that sweeps in crumpled yellow
across my toes, spinning
on brief vortexes of air
over sidewalks, the gutters,
the tarnished silver streets.
It reminds me of glitter
in a snow globe, those bright patterns
whirling like startled minnows through
a frozen world of glass.
Not looking over my shoulder,
but habitation examined
like fine print: subtle marks
on windows, torn plaster,
the lacquered texture of wood floors.
There is no memory here.
When the street lamp burns,
its halo glints on the parked cars
and the damp asphalt the way the moon does
the nighttime waters: slack-jawed
with the eyes of the dead –
all that stillness.
Emily Jahn is a Saint Paul based poet and student teacher with degrees in Biology and Creative Writing from Northwestern University. Her work can be found or is forthcoming in Arcturus, The Banyan Review, Ligeia, and others.