& Hillary Gravendyk
Some say gentle when children reach for creatures
gentle about the necklace being undone
by another or as if to name an action is to make it true:
Gentle Ben is a hopeful name for a large bear.
He lumbers through mossed nouns, points
his nose at the arrows of high leaves, those indications
that close around a swatch of feather-streaked
air. Bees cloud into their honey trap saying
gentle gentle gentle but it sounds like someone
madly sleeping. Is there a word for when you pull
a nail out of a wall? Throw a nail carelessly, hoping
for sound? A word for hibernated wildness, for
its swarming shadow of darts? The sting
of it all. They say put down your claws, we say
put that word here.
The snow subtracts pieces of sky
from the larger sky, and I congratulate
myself: can recall exactly where
I parked. These lesser victories satisfy
in a way that love simply cannot.
I don’t want the holidays. Bright lipped, divided
between painted hearths. Don’t want heat
that fades. Even the day loses potency
like a white tablet, fizzing mildly
at the bottom of a glass. The sounds promising,
the sounds quieting, the sounds believing in want.
Not nothing, not absence—its opposite—I’ll take that.
Give me the confetti-heaped world, I want all of it.
Cover my hair and my limbs with every object of desire:
it blows apart, the grit of it in my eyes, my teeth
snapping off every kept dream like a twist of sugar—
But we know what we want. We grow old and find
our hearts in a series of removals. A grid with each box
erased, the paper soft as tissue paper.
It’s like I said, clearing our pints and plates away,
showing you the last lager—licked with foam—
it’s the relief of knowing just one thing is left.
Cynthia Arrieu-King teaches at Stockton College and is a former Kundiman fellow. Her reviews have appeared in Jacket and Denver Quarterly and her poems have appeared in Boston Review, The Kenyon Review and Fence. She has two books of published work: People are Tiny in Paintings of China (Octopus 2010) and Manifest (Switchback 2013), a collaborative chapbooks with Ariana-Sophia Kartsonis, By Some Miracle a Year Lousy with Meteors (Dream Horse Press) and many collaborative poems with the late Hillary Gravendyk.
Hillary Gravendyk (1979-2014) was an Assistant Professor of English at Pomona College in Claremont, CA and a native of Washington State. Her poetry has appeared in journals such as American Letters & Commentary, The Bellingham Review, The Colorado Review, The Eleventh Muse, Fourteen Hills, MARY, 1913: A Journal of Forms, Octopus Magazine, Tarpaulin Sky and most recently Sugar House Review. Her chapbook, The Naturalist, was published by Achiote Press in 2008 and her full-length collection Harm, came out from Omnidawn in 2012. She leaves behind many devoted colleagues, friends, family, and beautiful poems.