Constriction I always sought the hollows in the rolling plains, something to lean against as my mind drifted toward the sky-rangers, their thin, white horses. But it was the openness that drew me. No crowds, no crowding. And the thunder that echoed for miles always seemed distant, the light above testing like a snake’s tongue, the atmosphere’s temperature. I was at my best in those years, fresh with bright beams of a new architecture braced by scaffolding that unfolded into the wild constructions of condensation. But those were the castles of a child, restless, ridiculous on the physical plane. In the mind though, fertile, a germination. What grows, grows upward, spreads and overshadows its beginner’s self. I am still held by the old margins, by lines I have arbitrarily drawn as if a page is too much space. Cut it in half, in thirds, and tighten and constrict. Notice how wide the sky is, how it extends past the limits of peripheral vision. What we see is narrow as a tree’s trunk, a singular reaching toward light. Let me learn to expand as my lungs expand, still within the body but taking in more and letting go and now building capacity, modeling those early winds. What do the lungs know about breadth? Only their own limits.
Forward “I fell asleep in a river, I woke in a river, of my mysterious failure to die I can tell you nothing . . .” —from Louise Gluck’s “Landscape” So little is clear, neither the tea-colored water nor my thoughts which always seem to be leaning for a view forward, searching out a reflection, struggling to translate into coherency the babbling that rises to the surface. How could a self exist without buoyancy? I sleep. I wake. The water runs deeper the further downstream we go. What once seemed solid now gives way, a great weight dragged along with me, earth compounded into powder like some exotic cure prescribed for fevers. I remove my jacket, belt, shoes. Slide off pants, discard shirt, and dive into the clouded future to see if homecoming is possible. Maybe I will encounter it past the rapids. Maybe during a storm-bereft season when calm prevails. Maybe . . . Who knows why the heart clings to its raft of detritus. It’s tempting to think that there is no end to the distance. On either side mud-caked shore, branches like safety barriers. Because the river is not safe. Teeth and rake-edged claws and constriction and venom wait like pirates, for a likely victim. The river takes me where it wants and whether or not I want to go. And I must sleep sometime, fall asleep and travel unknowing far downstream. This is the mystery, isn’t it— not how I fail to die, but how, carried along night after night, I wake to a morning that defines itself as a kind of progress.
Chris Dahl tries to cup handfuls of murky pond-water and offer the contents for examination: tadpoles and larvae, algae, broken bits of leaves and other detritus, maybe even a spider testing its way along the surface tension. She hopes to point out liveliness and interconnectedness, odd patterns and, with luck, glimpses of a different world, half-hidden in this one. Her chapbook, Mrs. Dahl in the Season of Cub Scouts, was published after winning Still Waters Press “Women’s Words” competition. She has been published in a wide variety of journals and had poems nominated both for Best of the Internet and a Pushcart Prize. She lives in Olympia, Washington where she serves on the board of the Olympia Poetry Network and edits their newsletter.