Jamestown Settlement, Virginia, 1609
We grasp at everything but clasp nothing but wind. To have had my girlhood first at sea & here, in leafy canopy, silver cedars, oaks & wailing, owls & otherwise in timbered dark— I’m not like them, their island tongues unraveling in colony’s weak net, vowels slack-jawed with winter’s waste, old words glittering like the fishes I did cup in pools left behind by tide. Water’s salt prickling my lips. Here, like ropes & knots of guts, like ivy’s rash, I’d learned to read how bodies are susceptible to change: I grew shadowed by water’s wane, the curled down corn. My chest like wild strawberries sprung, but barren swamps you could row through now won’t bear the heavy plough. How like my face defleshed in those hot seconds after death. Fresh apprehension, dull cleaver’s lesson—hunger drives the novice hand that plats my skin like hair, my brains the fruit of acorn, bright & bitter boiling out. No mirror here for my teeth’s air. No answers but for all our beasts are slewn. My skull’s hackmarks & punctures sing our settlement’s secret song to itself—the role of a berry is to bleed in your mouth.
The Cloud of Unknowing, Chapter 36: The meditations of those who struggle continually in the work described in this book.
from Issue 29.2, winner of the Wabash Prize in Poetry.
ALICIA WRIGHT is originally from Georgia, and has received fellowships from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Her poems have appeared in Ecotone, Flag + Void, Poetry Northwest, The Greensboro Review, and The Literary Review, among others. The recipient of the 2016 Poetry Prize from Indiana Review and the winner of New South’s 2015 New Writing Contest, she lives in Denver, Colorado, where she is a PhD candidate in Creative Writing and Literature at the University of Denver.