2 Poems – Nicole Connolly

Slippery Elm Trail, After Winter Rain

the black swamp pools up
as if it were spring—
geese break the rocks open
with their staff-like legs

the slippery elms
tired of being naked
fog-clothe their bare arms

their geese are not invisible
merely gray creatures that stand against
a gray world
and lose to the world

I could change its color
with an axe
take lumber
for an open stove
if the elms did not creak
their warning—
ready to spear                  

I cannot consider this
small personal pleasure        
not in this body that kills
by existing

all together
shepherd spiders sprout
from one side of the trail
and skitter to the other     

perhaps they could stitch
these two halves whole
they bring no silk threads
and stand tall on their legs
not to build more quickly
but watch for reasons
to be afraid

I understand this
in the way one sheet shared
does not collect two bodies
so much as border them
against other bodies

motion in desire
is often twice-categorized
to follow what one needs
(I return to the swamp
though not belonging)
to wander because one lacks
or something went wrong
(I emerge from whichever bed

all other creatures startle
at an unseen sight—
whirl around my motionless head
(I have spent a life
categorizing my desires
and have not desired less)


Picnic at the End of Looking Season

We unshroud our cheese in the car, outlast
the freight train that hides its lifespan
behind sound-breaking trees. At the marsh,

watchers pass each other satchels stocked
with silence that makes the blown sheet
of birds easier to see. It’s windy enough

for the splaying lake to scratch itself
on the sand, say ahh. We say, last one,
then cut another slice, another. You halve

a strawberry with your teeth, guide the flesh
you’ve opened against my tongue. After
we’ve learned to look, a crow’s cocked wing

can fold the whole field, is a sacred crease,
though in a few days, this reverence
fades away, and the cheese rots from

so much sun, refrigeration can’t save it
later: when we’ll drink to talk about
me leaving, not talk about it, continue

to drink. Here, at night without you, I make
noises that lie about what I am to ward
off mountain lions, dogs, lovers. I go

to the ocean at night, too, say not right
now, maybe not ever, while the tide
beats its fists, offers that old, tired offer

to knead me into the grave. I remember my
mood lifts sometimes, as if the sun’s chariot
harness also pulls me by the neck—though it has

to keep falling, falling, to rise, rise. It takes
too long to believe those bright, orbiting
horses will return unless I drain my whole

body of blood to offer them salt,
something to drink; the other half of my
useless, ouroboros joy: to give, to wait,

to give—until it becomes a form of taking.



Author Bio: Nicole Connolly lives and works in Orange County, CA, which she promises is mostly unlike what you see on TV. She received her MFA from Bowling Green State University, and her work has appeared, or is forthcoming, in such journals as Pretty Owl Poetry, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Big Lucks, and Pithead Chapel. She currently serves as Managing Editor for the poetry-centric Black Napkin Press.

The author: zlis@iastate.edu