voices from the cascadia bioregion

not worried about the loosening

by jennifer boyden

The dead can walk in the rain.
Walk under each drop
and not worry about the loosening
scalp, the fallen hair.

The dead are loved most
by children because they do
what children believe in:
pass a pin through the hand,
bloom shrapnel from their guts,
catch fire. No one interrupts
the dead by daring to save them.

The dead enjoy the good wetness
in the mouths the living.
They can open their arms
and hold everything at once:
the bicycle and its cloud, the truck
and its accident, the dog chosen
by its cage, the salt, the entire library
asleep in their arms.
You can walk like that:

holding everything, open armed,
over coals or through the stitches
of your own clothing.
If you wish to hold trees,
you must choose one first
and walk in. Walk right in.

You might answer their roots
with the offering of yourself
in the conversation
of the next eternal phase.


    each answer i answer to

    by jennifer boyden


    The heron is a tall window. When I am done looking
    through it, I will need to answer
    for how I have used the world.

    Until then, the trees are content at the edge
    of a window like that: watery, unasked for.
    What do I have to tell the heron?

    That the unpicked field
    of blackberries must answer to hunger.
    That the fish tossed on the side of the road
    had never met such air pulled like bones
    from its flesh. That the sun is the one who asked
    the heron to invent stillness.

    Above, another cloud loosens a broken corner
    of sky.

    The heron watches what swims within
    in its own shadow: mirror likeness
    of the darkness it can see through
    to what it will live by.

    It is sharpening its knives of intention, inseparable
    from how I should
    thank the grass while I am here.


      the bricks will be taken away and used again as bricks

      by jennifer boyden


      They shut off the water so we gathered to sinks

      our voices white in the tiled spaces

      Then the electricity and so we approached the sockets

      with static in our hair, appliances outstretched When

      they took the windows, we pressed ourselves

      to the walls, became doors of each other’s passing

      Our voices were sewn into quilted sacks, abandoning

      the teeth We gathered to the tongue

      and our hands We gathered When they take us

      from each other, we will join the mirrors

      where we will come to know how to meet ourselves


        the lost man leaves a will

        by jennifer boyden


        To the wind, the fullness of my mouth, juice
        of my openness. To gnawing things, the osseous fists
        of my bones’ rebinding. I want the earth
        to accept my head. I have wanted to be held
        by something my entire life, something that demands
        all of me to answer back with holding.

        To my gone children, all I cannot say without
        my tongue. I call you in silence. You answer
        in kind, and are counted. To birds, a nest of hair
        and threads for the wobble-necked and pink-bodied.

        I give the trust of grass to bear and raccoon,
        to the crepuscular world who pauses before taking,
        whose staring eyes give back the light of cars
        as if to fix the breakage of air
        before the great coming down upon them.
        I have been broken. I
        have been broken.

        My walk from one place to this did not leave
        a trail: I walked my route only once, and once-
        forward is not enough to be remembered by grass.
        My path is where I column into my own shape.
        I give space to air with my leaving.
        I give space to flying with my leaving.

        I ask for nothing in return. I have received more
        than I asked for, and worse: the world afloat; answers
        at once and for nearly everything; animal bellies
        untethered and dragging.

        To the leaf, serration of my teeth.
        To water, ice of my witnessing. It will need it.
        To deer, asking and then emptiness before slaughter.
        The grass should take my memory. But to the trails worn
        by the escaping many, the mud of unknowing.

        Here is what I know for now: worms,
        I have loved you rightly
        since I learned that dirt holds secrets blind and dependent
        on whatever mercies we are willing to gift. I gave you names.
        I counted your rings, measured your body-yawns

        toward darkness. Worms, you are better than stars
        because you are here.

        Do you remember
        how my mother stitched her people’s names
        to my cuffs and then disappeared? The birds left
        before the people did, but you, you worms, you stayed.

        To the worms, my thanks. I ask you to make me rich
        within yourselves: you stayed. While the earth
        was fleeing itself, I named you, and you answered
        to the place of my naming, and remain.

        “The Lost Man Leaves a Will” was first published in The Declarable Future, © 2013, by the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. Reprinted by permission of The University of Wisconsin Press.


          david on the phone

          by jennifer boyden


          David sober says to feed the bear
          who’s eating the birdseed in our front yard.
          Says we must, for him, feed it so we’ll earn a badge
          under the god he’s wearing lately. God with eyes.
          God who sleeps a lot when David needs him most,
          and whose waking patience is thin
          as the bear’s winter cells. This God of tallying
          and disappearances is called upon by David most
          in the time of morning vapor when it’s hardest
          for David sober to believe: whole day stretched
          in front of him like paint thinner, each cup a cup
          which is to be used for coffee only. Feed the bear,
          David says sober though alone at his end of the hour
          when god might wake for him. David says
          it would go well for all of us if we pour milk over bread,
          honey over meat, and then carry out the bowl.
          But lock the door when you’re done, David says
          sober, because the source is always sweeter
          than the meal. He says the bear’s salvation will be heard,
          and might speak for him at the end of his need.

          And with what sweetness on the tongue
          will it urge the god of that single cup awake?
          And with what honeyed breath will it seek
          us out again, small gods terrified of the asking?


          “David on the Phone” was first published in The Declarable Future, © 2013, by the Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System. Reprinted by permission of The University of Wisconsin Press.


            statement of place: jennifer boyden

            I used to climb a pine tree just to have a quiet place to read, and I looked forward to the Minnesota winters because the snow makes the world so intimately silent: You can hear your heart, see your breath pushed out just in front of yourself, and then walk through it into another breath. Growing up with many siblings and a small house put me on an early path of pursuing silence and privacy, those places where I can hear the rhythms of my mind and feel word shapes take form, build, connect, and become ideas. I need a fair amount of space and quiet for this to happen. Living in the inland northwest at the edge of the Blue Mountains for the past fifteen years has provided plenty of such spaces: rolling Palouse wheat fields, thick forests, scrubland, and a river with its many tributaries. Oh, the river: I grew up in water, and so it has always been a companion that shares a need for both the hidden and the surface flash. I have lived too many very different places to say with any kind of authority where I am from (Wichita, Kansas; Boston, Massachusetts; southern Oregon, China, etc . . .). But I know what I am from: Lynch Lake, Mill Creek, apple and oak and pine trees, granite and basalt, and grasses . . . . I believe I can claim the what of place more than the where, making my homes among those things where there is potential for recognition of a mutual residence within.