FIVE POEMS by Rachel Brownson

/ / Issue 9, Poetry


The slow mineral seep and drip
of groundwater, finding each crevice,
the cold spreading, downward—

the imagined weight of her breast,
spreading to fill my hand
(still and folded in my pocket)—

today the weather wheels its long arc above us,
rippling the lake,
stroking the turning trees,
the moving air felt, not seen—
and hardly felt.



The balance has shifted, the dose (stable for months)
off, again. Round blue pill in my palm,

what will it be today?
Is it hunger or dread, this sinking?

I want to learn to soothe myself, one mother tells me,
tucking the blanket around her sedated child.

Yes. Imagine sinking under lake water.
Feel it hold your limbs, quieting, your hair

a cloud around you, shifting
with each insistent swell



I’ve touched that dark,
felt the gliding suck of it like
a wave retreating,
pulling at the beach.

The dead woman’s muscles
spread slack from the bone
so her body pools on the bed,
resistance drained

from every cell. You can slip
the breathing tube easily
out of her quiet throat.



Swarms of midges billow
from the tops of the cedars in streams,
falling to hover low over the still river—

specks black against the sky,
white against the dark water.

Light filters through various thicknesses of cloud.
It had been years, but now

there is this warm shoulder
brushing mine. It won’t last.

I touch a question to her hand.
As long as they don’t bite.
Bodies glancing off our skin like snow.



In the bassinet,
the tight-wrapped child,
skin purpled in death—
wrinkled, like she was left
too long in the bath.

Where the water belongs,
dripped three times
onto the forehead
so it falls back
behind the ear, the wispy hair,
here is the new
doctrine, the child dead
before she was born,
the mother leaning
back in her chair,
my cold hands,
and the water.

I swam in the ocean once,
current dragging at my legs,
the beach a pile of boulders, waiting.
With each wave, the horizon
rushed, crashed
over my head, again,
again, and I rose
battered and freezing,
salt in my mouth,
and it was morning.