This first, kind touch provides
the flint.The moment her hair
flashes to flame, the woman
escapes.As a lizard does, by breaking
its own tail.Walking around with her hair
on fire, the woman learns to avoid
theaters, dark concert halls.
She may never again hear live
Mozart.She sleeps alone
with an asbestos pillow.Nights
the woman cannot sleep, she goes
to twenty-four hour grocery
After , she may witness other
bodies on fire.Only once does she
speak to one of these.A man in front
of the celery bin.His burning
has spread beyond hers.His eyebrows,
the hair on his arms, flaming fine
and blue.His fingers touch her face,
arc the fragile bone of her cheek.
Later, she is not certain what
he told her.Something
about the sun's tracing that exact
same curve across the sky,
deep red at each end of the
The woman has learned
to read her own signs.Already
she can feel the heat of her
will ignite, and soon.Her eyes
forced open for good.
Originally published in Chicago Review with a Pushcart Nomination
Waiting for water to cool enough,
I shift from one foot to the other
and reach for a tray with two vials,
belladonna for fear, arsenicum
for resentment.Disregarding twilight,
some mockingbird in my garden continues
to sing.In the
window, a giant moth,
hanging in mid air, inserts its long
tongue into white hibiscus.I remember
or imagine a night we shared zuppa inglesa.Like Admiral Nelson
and Lady Hamilton, we called over
and over,More rum—yes, our wedding night.
As I sink into the tub my cat jumps onto the tray,
knocking over your crystal swan, beak
red as night.I
know that cat is waiting
for the moment water swirls down the drain.
She will attack the vortex as a thing alive.
Castalia, the pool at Delphi
and Castalia, the Blue Hole in Ohio.
They say neither has a bottom.So what if
she’s right, the American woman up the hill.
What if the two do connect and Columbus
did travel the complete wrong direction.
The correct way—not west, not east,
but down—straight through the center
of the earth.Enter
to surface just two miles north of the Clyde- Sandusky Road.The woman, standing near
a laurel, introduces the organ grinder as her lover
and traveling companion.He cranks out Clair de Lune over and over and never
once looks toward her.This is all so simple,she says.Swim either way.She talks about taking
off her clothes, something about the scramble
of yellow flowers on MountParnassus, men
racing naked in the stadium farther up the path.
The organ grinder’s cat with only three legs
rubs his stump against my ankle.I don’t
want to talk to this woman.
Her eyes, wet limestone, sharpen. Nothing to this, the woman tells me. I’ll change your breathing toward
We could travel in a group.Air
presses hard against my lungs.I move
my leg away from the cat.Four or five of us, if you will, all
hands, like old Esther Williams,
stars and pinwheels in the water.
were six, the woman says to me and I don’t know
how she can possibly know this. Niagara Falls.That particular day you
behind those falls, looking out
through the spray. Water
pounds down with the force of
thing that hasn’t yet happened in
your life, and if you knew,
oh my dear, how could you
breathe another solitary
You comment the few drops of water
reaching your face must be rain.
Your father says,“Don’t be silly.”
“We’re standing beneath the
of water in all of North America,”your mother explains.
You say nothing.Together you go up the elevator.
The door opens to the
remember—how they fall warm on
How they cover your whole shining face with rain.
Originally published in the Mississippi Review
THE LESSONS OF SALT
What on earth can you be doing
all this time, her mother calls
from downstairs.Bath water makes you wrinkled as a prune.
But the door is locked and the girl
can barely hear, ears submerged,
hair floating.Kelp beds—
thick and knotty strands moving
through cool currents and warm,
a promise from the ancient tub
with its clawed feet to hold her
safe and always.A pulse drums
within her ear, duplicates
her heart that day in the pasture.
A skeleton—bones scattered
near the fence.She remembers
running past the salt block, refusing
to look back.And the
cattle—they will charge.
The girl stares overhead at the light bulb.
Mother pounds the door.
You aren't the only one, she says.
The old lead cow, horned and huge,
does charge.The girl trips—
she falls.Her gasp swallows
the daylight moon.Not in time
to prevent kelp from turning
back to hair, lustrous pearls
to ordinary teeth.
published in the Laurel Review
ONE CORE AND
The girl knows she's a fool to follow dry leaves as they—dark
and amputated hands—lure her
through the cut in the land.Walking
between high rock walls, air cooler,
she reaches the fruit tree, heavy
with mountain snow.Apples hang
plump and yellow.A robin pecks
at their flesh.In the wind,
she hears rhythms
of a man and a woman—thighs rubbing,
the scrape of tongue on tongue, nail on skin.
The robin has chosen to stay the winter
for fruit that will shrivel and sweeten.He
does not look toward her as he digs out
one core—and another.The girl
Her skin can scarcely hold her.
Catherine Hammond Originally published in MARGIN: An Anthology of Magical
Once more, flooding in spring,
River Ho breaks beyond its banks.
The village places the girl, dressed
as a bride, in the boat made
from cinnamon bark.Her
instructions to pay close
attention—in the water's
reflection she will see
her new life.But the water
is muddy and moving too fast
to see even a fish or a glint
of slim light from the rocks
and dead leaves beat
against the frail cassia hull.
The girl thinks about flying—
all her life she has wanted
to fly—high as that fish hawk,
that osprey with—snap—
those strong talons.The bride
unwraps her hands from the iris
the village has given her
for an oar.Elder Ho waits
ahead with his whirlpool. Kuan kuan, the osprey calls.
THE WHALE HANNA AND THE FERRY
A man and a woman sit on deck.
This—in a fjord south of Aalesund—
is the ferry Voksa.The couple
has come with a picnic lunch
to watch the she-whale, rumored
in love with the black and white
boat.For ten days now the
has hugged the steel hull
and allowed streams of water
pumped from the ship to shower
her pale belly.In a newspaper
article, mammal expert Ugland
suggests she may find comfort
in some aft vibration below deck. Or perhaps she has lost her pod
and wants company.The man
and the woman—each knows why
they planned an afternoon in this icy wind,
watching Hanna bump and rub herself
against the Voksa's cold hull.
They have brought pancakes with currant jam,
a bottle of cherry heering, and a fish
for the whale.Children, let
out of school
to witness the improbable couple, cheer
as the mammal rolls in the backwash
of the ship's propellers.The
crew bets on
the height of the jet from her blowhole.
Mammal expert Ugland expects the whale
to leave the Voksa by winter.Even now,
snow dusts the couple on deck.April
is the long shot—the double
or nothing.The man puts an
on the woman's tongue.
Originally published in Yellow Silk
WHO HAS HEARD THE MOON
The story begins simply enough.A sound
(was there a sound) startles the woman awake.
She leaves the lover (was he really my lover—
the way he kept his shoulders flat on the pillow,
his head immobile—he never did bother to kiss me)
and walks naked through the door
to the sea.Saw grass cuts her
The sound (was that a cat in the water mewing,
a whole life in that wide yowl—kitten to skull)
repeats.(Or did that cry come
from the mouth
of the sea, white and hungry mirror to the moon.)
The woman enters the waves.
She never hesitates, even as salt stings grass-
whipped legs, mouth, eyes.The
woman (was there some
moment I should have turned back) searching for the long,
slow tongue of the ocean, travels (is this the way sea
anemones move—such a ululation of breasts, hair, cells,
and the water flowing through) deeper yes, listening
within the silence—for any small
THE OCEAN, A DRESS
Even now, the woman must wear the ocean,
a dress crumpled in the back of her closet
(put it on, the voice whispers).Having learned
lessons of salt, her eyes stare into distance.
Whatever she means to say, she says nothing.
Oh, she can talk about the sharp ping of milk
hitting a steel bucket, warm froth filling
her mouth.She watches for
lightning pretending to spread itself on water's
surface—while penetrating through to the heart.
Wind's caressing the undersides of leaves (don't
dare speak).Braidingand unbraiding her hair,
the woman considers singing—silence is always
the presence of some other thing.The man never
questions her absence—foam at her collar,
starfish caught in a sleeve.Do you think