Take the Colder Territory
Julia Cohen & Mathias Svalina
Black sand, black rivulets cover the town in handiwork
& when you find a photograph of a war-casualty in your pocket you have to
wonder how it got there. My sleeve is caught in the briar patch,
black sand cannot find me home.
Hornets slink into the slack balloon, yellow with quick-lime.
Dispel you sister’s cotton child, to spell rind.
I’ve traveled with limestone on my back, a hornet casualty of my paper home.
To sleeve the yardworld from your xeroxed cheek,
a photograph of the life that lived without you,
a plain between the sheets,
ripping teeth to yarn. I’ve spoken with anything that could
respond, I’ve met with any soldier that could bend back.
Slackened my jaw to the briar patch.
I burnt the briar patch into a sleeve of spades
& the wheels beside the interstate erupt in bloom.
From the kitchen you spill metal in my morning cup
& it tastes of well-water, tastes of the knots in your hair.
We’ll steal the steeples & hide them in the attic where warmer air
pillows the starlings that fall from rafters
& exit the window your sister’s child forgot to close.
What does a window ask of the colony.
What does the spade ask of dirt that has already been buried.
The water asks for child-like appreciation:
an elm tree, a rock beside the elm tree,
a field where people came to sleep.
A jar of briars plucked from your child’s sleeveless arm
will not satisfy the thirsting. A steel ladder leans
on my limestone back, my colder territory.
Twitch of photographs curled into hornets.
Your child drinks a mouthful,
a gap in the floorboards filled with the soldier’s photograph.
The cloudless mantle has no hands.
Between sounds of the gate shifting in wind
& the sound of limestone eroding, only
the blankness of my breath, the mouthful of fire that I’m saving for you.
Black sand, black watered handiwork sharpened to briar.
A child-like scandal, jarred starlings & your sleepless arm.
Handlebars loosen & roll down to my colder territory.
A brown paper bag, pounding with bullfrogs, watertight.
If I could remember the code to the alarm
I would come to your house & return your child’s
starling. Here in this field where people come to sleep, many
things could be created, many months of dirt forming.
When I was a child I buried a broom in my back yard.
When I returned as a soldier
When I returned to my briar patch
When I returned at all.
To your cloudless face, the gap in the floorboards
is packed tight with ice, embedded with seeds.
Your sleeveless arms are child-like and perfect, release
the hornets, ease the scandal, drink me home.
Jars slacken & open, spill metal seeds down the turnpike.
A colony slips down the hill toward the sawmill,
trailing brooms for tails. Your hornets follow this handiwork,
own the breeze that shakes the timothy trapped in brickware
You have been to tighter places, knotting cotton to your sleeves.
You have been polishing this statue for the last ten years.
The briar patch grows a small pool of soldiers.
Your child’s jump-rope hidden below moldering leaves.
The field of sleeping people frosts over by night. This is
where you go when you’re forgotten. Before you go, a handful
of briars for your child. Want of photographs.
Want of black sand. Want of knots.
I’ve returned. Want to last longer than the things I own.
Julia Cohen & Mathias Svalina
Author Discusses Poems