Gail Martin is the author of The Hourglass Heart (New Issues Press, 2003) and Begin Empty-Handed, winner of the 2013 Perugia Press Poetry Prize. Her work has been anthologized in Poetry in Michigan, Michigan in Poetry (New Issues Press, 2013) and Sweeping Beauty (University of Iowa, 2005), and has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Prairie Schooner, and The Southern Review. She is a Michigan native with roots in both southern and northern Michigan. She works as a psychotherapist in private practice in Kalamazoo, MI where she lives with her husband and her dog, Piper. She is the mother of three grown, left-handed daughters. For more information, visit: www.gailmartinpoetry.com
Sometimes Night is a Creek Too Wide to Leap
The sky wears black serge pants while
hemming up another pair for tomorrow
night. A bit shorter, but you won't notice.
Some nights the blue pill brings a dream
where a young girl is trying not to cry
in the sheep pasture, stuck where her brothers
eyed the watery gap and mossy stones and sailed
to the other side. We didn't know about E. coli
then, how our waders must have buzzed with it.
By the time I was ten, I'd pared my list of things
I was scared of down to four: the high board,
hoods and kidnappers, blue racers, and shaking
hands with Uncle John who'd lost four fingers
in the cornpicker. I pushed the scared parts of me
away, like the two finches my mother watched
nudge a dead fledgling off the edge of her deck.
The rocks beneath her heart began to move
the night her daughter lost her native tongue.
No god of French-milled soap and lavender
could build a church on cradled hands and love.
The night that artist lost her native tongue
something seismic dropped, rolled away,
faith in that childish church of hands tested
and sung, the green-faced violinist played.
Something seismic drops through an open heart
these nights, gone missing between the cradle and now.
The face of the violinist green and dark,
fiddling toward some unknown gift, not found.
Gone missing between the cradle and now, hands reach
for any god—of hardboiled eggs, of nail heads—
fiddling on toward gifts not recognized nor found.
The girl keeps playing, beating time. She says
any god will do: god of plum pits, ice cubes,
dog hair, there's always something to believe in.
This girl—the gift we recognize—found
and rocked, o hourglass god, beneath my heart.