Just a little green, like the nights when the northern lights perform

Chris Dombrowski

Indisputably I recognize the cumulus overheadas a portion of the night sky the aurora borealisilluminated years ago while I lay with Liz Charlesin the back of Toby Lawrence’s Westfalia, pettingheavily until Lawrence appeared with a knockon the hatchback. “The. Northern. Lights. Man,”an indication he’d made little progress of his ownwith the congressman’s daughter in the uncut cornso I removed my hand from the denim waistline,the copper button of which I had just undone,and stepped flushed into the breath-seizing nightunder the red-and-green firmament billowinglike gown of light, a mere ten miles from Lansing’schained factory gates. Back at the party none couldfathom the kaleidoscopic heavens we described, normonths later acknowledge what pulsed in Liz’sbrain. Fainting spells soon forced us to, a shavedhead, its tidy box of stitches, a monthlong migrainecovered by ill-fitting wigs, hats. Then one eveningin June we sat on the sidewalk like kids and drewwith chalk. “I’m going to wherever they drawon the sidewalk all day,” she said. And soon did,reappearing now and then to swim flirtatiouslythrough dreams before slipping the subconscious’grip, so much like this white cloud that eludesthe branches’ grasp before lofting west: the wind-blown work of her hands—long-traveled, adriftfrom parts celestial, a word I haven’t quite relinquished.

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Chris Dombrowski is the author of three collections of poetry, most recently Ragged Anthem (Wayne State University Press, 2019), and two books of nonfiction, Body of Water and The River You Touch (Milkweed, 2016; 2022). He teaches in the MFA Program at the University of Montana.

Detroit, Michigan

Wayne State University

"'I hoped for some last gesture beyond a handshake,' writes Chris Dombrowski in Ragged Anthem, a soulful book of longing that is as comic as it is reflective. These poems sing of humankind in need of something it can only seem to get from the natural world, and of how we won't get it until we begin to understand ourselves as natural as any tree or river. Or as Dombrowski himself says, 'Again / I took daybreak for granted, easy / as mistaking pinecone for wasp nest, / wasp nest for shed antler, antler / for branch.' Here, these so-called mistakes make for discovery that approaches the magic of revelation."
— Jericho Brown, author of The Tradition

"Reading Ragged Anthem is like staring at the sun and then looking away. Whatever is seen next is informed and haunted by that light. Dombrowski's poems are that clear, that powerful. This book will change you."
— Kevin Goodan, author of Anaphora

"'It wearies one, the visionary mode,' Chris Dombrowski writes in his remarkably unweary new book of poems, Ragged Anthem. The anthem is ragged, to be sure, with the disillusion and tenderness that comes with age and with a closely attended wonder-at a son's words, a daughter's drawings, brook trout, swallow nest, the sound of the word swale. Dombrowski reminds us with the clarity of a mountain stream why poems matter."
— Melissa Kwasny, author of Pictograph and Reading Novalis in Montana

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