PoetryWinter 22-23

Two Poems — Jeremy Rock

Svalbard Missive

You make me grateful even a brook can have
its favorite basin. I always say this time

of year – have you seen it? – is best
spent kilned in wool, far from the lungs

of a mountain, but here you are. Everything
is like allspice, less a depth and range of flavor

than you’d expect, an exhale against the glacier
of that Ark-old problem. So the seeds

sit – savings bonds, life policies, the smiling red
of an axe behind glass. You’re learning to swim.

To hold your breath so radicles wouldn’t mistake
your sigh for thaw. Minus eighteen, time abraded

raw like picked permafrost; you’re the blush of a fruit,
your guts afterlife’s blooms. What’s it like to hold it all

at once? You’re a sleeping genesis, the perennated knots
in a string that will wrap the earth. A fetal world-tree.

The land could learn hunger from your mouth.
You would be, massif to hillocks, the blue light

of morning, prowing through the last cold teeth
night’s left in the ice. The sun would wait to feed you.



                                                With a line from Natalie Diaz

What I can give the trees that fall
for me, the quiet soil cleft fallow
and limed. Our measures of land

descend from their aptness for being acted
upon—what stremma a hale ox could
traipse in the stretch between now

and tomorrow—We sowed crofts, taught
thirst in their sediment. Their igneous. The
tongue and its buds, porphyry blooming

into offer: I have a gift
and it is my body. Shelled shrapnel
became so known for snuffing bucks,

it kept the name. A snowdrift’s christened
widowmaker when the work of lifting
its weight steals a life. We’ll never

be clean of the way this mouth of teeth
and lips stains phonemes like mothdust
or sand gritting oil, but I am willing

to spend all the time it takes to come close.


Jeremy Rock is pursuing an MFA at the University of Alabama. He has work published in Poet Lore, The Shore, Ninth Letter, Sugar House Review, Cider Press Review, and elsewhere. He is usually chasing backroads and dirt trails with a camera, and you can find him on Instagram @jeremy__rock.

The author: Leah VanSyckel