These five poems by Shannon Cuthbert use fantastical and dreamlike language to explore our connection with our inner selves and the natural world. They also attempt to demonstrate the capacity of visual images to help us explore ineffable thoughts, feelings, or desires…
by: Shannon Cuthbert
Turning a Leaf
Consider an algebra of unmended trees
And your land that paints owls
In oil, burns lamps
That lit the tail-end of another century.
Its marrow which is your own,
Its mirror which is your own self stoking ancient desires,
Ambrosia and throaty as gulls
That call from the paper bag night.
They admire and wheel you
Through the long luxury of unguarded terminals.
Fragrant tale of your torso
Concerns once voiced
Will shudder through you as you cradle
Each telephone to your brain,
Like a house built of you,
Contained and material and undivine.
Once transported, home remains
Portrait grey in the medieval lung
Of your storm, your
Assorted misgivings and other admirers
Watercolored into being.
And bone-thin, the
Tubfuls of petals
Pour silk through my toes
To one who’s gone without,
Its unending light
Stretched tight as maps,
The sky is parchment
Snapped by stars.
And wasp-clouds gather
Their broken wings,
Hum to heal,
From the swollen comb,
Emerge to nights
Like cooling loaves,
Exhale flour-dust in gusts.
In the midst of this
By curled lips of crows
Spitting spackled seeds
Like a mother tongue.
Bright as comets.
Silk white face of milkweed
Like silent moons
Poised above black
Land is not without
Messages trailed by firefly glow,
Spells to bewitch,
To fill a night with the song
Of dead stars
Laid to rest
Against the earth.
Get on with it,
With a life between two camels’ backs,
Lustrous with all the crushed beetles
That form a desert from here to the infinite.
Your grave will remain unforeseen and reversed,
A shrine where they set
Twin candles adrift for your contemplation,
For you to will away these days
Of myrrh, and fortune, of graceless soldiers
Who stand too close to the vast broken edge,
Who toss boots down
To watch them un-be, and wish this meaningless on all.
As king, you prized mercy most of all.
That, and watching women
In walls, their eyes turned mirror, masks of cake
Upon each face to hide a pox.
Now you please
Fools endless in their unravelings,
And vultures who watch bemused on a bank,
Spin green to wool and gold,
Wait a lifetime or two
To feast apparitions of unneutered dogs
That wander these hills tasting lime into stone.
as a child I rolled arms in dough
to build pat clouds of bread and cake
working the muscles beneath
like giants disturbed from their slumber hillside
and watched empty faces
of other children as we drove our carriage into town,
dirt-cheeks dusted to vulnerable crops.
In my finery, mere smocks of canvas,
tall as tomatoes I grew undeterred
by lack of mineral
and allowed adults to flash petty fears
where I walked, with my feet that moved this earth,
with my hands that built a world,
all clay and sugar and wire unyielding,
emerging in torn-up shacks I was left lost by the river
and turning up solved and in
seven rot species I learned to be bloomed.
Shannon Cuthbert is a writer and artist living in Brooklyn. Her poems have been nominated for three Pushcarts, and have appeared in journals including Dodging the Rain, Hamilton Stone Review, and The Oddville Press. Her work is forthcoming in Sparks of Calliope, Lowestoft Chronicle, and Silver Blade Magazine, among others. She currently edits poems for The Beautiful Space.