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2 poems by Rebecca Reynolds

The Cradle Bones

Neither the cloud nor candlewood.

No longer a thin mystery of myself

or jug wine drained in a lungful time.

Neither the sallow, half-shed moon

nor storms hunkering East from Pennsylvania

from mounds of slag to this

city with toddlers and migrants, steeples

or car repair. Close to the woods and the cropped farms,

the neighbor who backs over the curb and parks

in his imaginary drive, or the neighbor who lets Santa Claus deflate

all winter, backed by the dormant roses.

My body forgets its vertebrae and embarks on a network

of fascia and muscle, less

spiny than dense more ice and crystalline fins

inside the transparency of us

though I am not the segmented seahorse, that wisp of an

equine mermaid curling its tail, relative to a teacup.

I am not ghost tales told around

the solstice, nor so steady that I don’t have fears living

in this distant, Jersey town, worn stone, republicans,

and poverty the town’s empty gazebo

down on Main by the boarded windows

and the center of our life up hill on a slope of rock

with you, unsleeping in the soft crown

of the night and hushed by kindling in the sycamore.


My grandmother wizens to bone in her pine box.

Blackness mills with scraps and silt, her birdcage

of ribs, congress

of holocaust survivors, refugees,

immigrants who landed

in tenements and coal dust, who climbed, like her,

to their wool and wooden rooms

before marriages, pre-fabs, and sprawl. Perhaps

we should forego cremation, claim plots

by the turf and scree of hills, insist on

violets and bracken fern, butterfly weed,

fat bees and hummingbirds.

We’ll rise as slips, hover in fall meadows, cup thistles,

startle the grown-ups, drift in eternal shoelessness

over treetops with hosts of sparrows.

I will never ghost you. There is too much freight

between rupture and rapture.

We will rapture this house. You come home

in men’s tees and workclothes. If I drive in the mountains

I turn to spiny mist in the vertical space between leaves. The river

impatients the morning, rain mussed, and stippled

as my voice folds. I have bagged speech.

Shoppers cross in their masks at Home Depot

for hinges and weather strips. We staunch what we can.

As a child I unearthed a pipe beneath our swings,

trailed it through crab grass, wild aster, snake root, and dog scat

while the fence crept with ditch lilies

that cruised D.C. alleys in the wind-pressed

thrift of circulars. I never struck gold. Years later

my mother heard rats scuttle through basement walls—

invisible for years, even as we’d clapped

Miss Mary Mack Mack Mack, who longed for elephants

to jump into the sky.


Rebecca Reynolds has published two books of poetry, Daughter of the Hangnail and The Bovine Two Step (New Issues Press). Her first book received the 1998 Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America. She teaches Creative Writing at Rutgers University, NJ.


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