Unkind Certainties


Desire-bloated O tenacious want

with eyes determinedly averted from

a speechless phone and history’s kernel ripe

against my longing bellyache I trace

the lovers down a humming throat to times

when leaving meant what leaving’s meant to mean

at most a gangly writ if passion kept

received in weeks or months or not at all

if Clotho’s scissors slipped too soon and sliced

through sprawling ribbons of black threading ink

with no more effort than a little catch-

breath kiss the kind he palmed to pretty me

atop the quilt picture the river flood

o’er banks and flush the only road perhaps

a city razed and left for carrion-meal

or unshod horse or broken cart axel

see all these ways that loving once was shorn

is what I nearly said to him in my

suspension ‘twixt the present and the rest

and now I find me fixing for the past

gavotting slow and empty-armed because

though modern-made I’m sticky in that silk

that webbed those lovers centuries ago

but crueler still for dangling mothlike here

no respite giv’n by unseen fate-hands for

it’s he alone has both spindle and shears



Coltsfoot on Coburn


So, on the off chance you might start,

I polish the silver. By the time my hands go still

and lay down now spoon, now knife in the fold

of the dun rag, an ill-centered sun’s reach

has forgotten full half the room, has rent

the butcher-block countertop and slipped to coil


up a night’s length. I turn again, attempt to uncoil

my spine, all poised and perched (as at the start

of my larval years, when I began to pay this rent,

due at odd intervals). Even in this kind dusk, I fail, still

scared as a fly, for by your lean light I could reach

no keeping-place. Friend: perhaps I will fold,


resign with grace, address my failures to you. Fold

that. Bury it somewhere traceless, near a snake’s coil—

In the milkweed! Where I watch a wasting fawn keen, reach

her weaned and waned limbs out at evening, feel her start

and reel. I call out: Let her stay. I think that still

I could ask you home: The sage is gangly, and the rent


in the coop fence is nearly fixed (though it sorely rent

my fool hands to mend). Maybe a bottle would fold

up our old bruise? Or does this rusted-through still

brew but bitter beer? Was what I thought a backfire the recoil

of a rifle after all? Yet you, as I, have read the start

of a violent breath. You too have seen the vast reach


of a spit word, so I clip the pinions, check the reach

of fear. I show you my lettings-go in still

shivering hands, and in this empty room you strike a fire-start,

hold the brand between us. Now you see? The fold

of your meanness keeps its dark corner. But I’m sorry to recoil

from your honest, your uncruel flame. Well, the silver’s still


out. The dusk hour quickens in its still-

ness. I count knives, spoons. Coyote yips reach

right through the windows in a faceless coil.

And here a chick, here a swallow, here a twig paying rent

to a stove. In this hale hollow’s careful fold

I’ll stay a while more. Get on with the sweeping. Start


to coil up the fence, let hens loose in the sage, and on still

feet start in on the silver anew. For, my will’s reach

untold, I’ll forgive what you have rent, break what I can’t fold.





It’s been slow, this

Measured and mindful shove off

A boundless island

With land enough to feed, water enough to slake

Fields inept

              at the economics of love

From which only fools depart


Fool I, I gathered up the grain and

The chaff, bundled up the full sheaves

Against the coming damp

              left the roots

Did the best I could by me

And the wheat

And the ergot rye


For from this sly isle’s eye

I must away before I am grown in

Entire, which is why I’m scratching this note

Roanoke, roanoke


I walked the land seven times

Plains to shore

Strained beneath casks, cow-eyed and heavy

              lamenting like a loon

              until my bird-voice gave


The anchor could not hold fast a skip



& provision-heavy in such silt as this

It upturned the sea-floor

Mica blinded the crawdads

It would have been cruel

              to harbor long

And no amount of asking will sturdy a sea-bed

Nor can any iron weigh this


Out here’s more light than there’s right to be

Though I’d barter hours for a bushel of that bad grain


But the sea proffers honesties to the willing

              A spade of puffin beak

                           Twenty barrels of salt

                                        A single calfless whale

              Beds without quilts and fish best raw

What it is to have both rot and cate



Biographical Note: Hannah grew up in Vermont, and her writing is heavily influenced by the ecosystems of her home state, theology, linguistics, and literature of all time periods with a current interest being early English poetry. When she’s not writing or reading, she enjoys playing music with friends, hiking, and making soup. She is a first-year at Vassar College.