Sleeping with the Cedars

Melissa Kwasny

Smaller than hours and waves, I liein their shade. Daubed with their paste. A formof peace in the island green of mourning.When I graduate, my mother used to say,one of our little jokes. To graduate, a step bystep affair. The silence is like a bronzeage bell tolling. Announcing her death, whichI know of already, or declaring a newphase. In order for the community to gather.In the Egyptian Book of the Dead,Osiris waits in the dark to burst forth, hitting airas a swallow, a falcon, a craftsman, a snake,a lotus, but never a tree. My mother complainedthat I dress like a widow, my hair like barkor ash and that I intentionally neglect to brush it.It is instead the shyness of those most favoredthat makes me hide, like pigment blendedwith water and spread across the surface of a skymade to wrinkle and absorb it. Wake me,let me walk again, the dead plead in the Egyptianhymns. As my mother did when she was alive.Lift your eyes. Can you find the one branchwavering in the Forest of No Wind?Strong emotion must leave its trace, the writers say.The painters know, within the trunks of cedar,there are many carved wooden rooms,sunlight pouring forth from doors they left ajar.

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Headshot of Melissa Kwasny

Melissa Kwasny is the author of seven books of poetry, most recently Where Outside the Body is the Soul Today (Pacific Northwest Poetry Series, University of Washington Press) and the forthcoming The Cloud Path (Milkweed Editions 2024), as well as a collection of essays Earth Recitals: Essays on Image and Vision. Her first full length nonfiction book, Putting on the Dog: The Animal Origins of What We Wear, explores the cultural, labor, and environmental histories of clothing materials provided by animals. She is also the editor of two anthologies: I Go to the Ruined Place: Contemporary Poets in Defense of Global Human Rights and Toward the Open Field: Poets on the Art of Poetry 1800-1950. She was Montana Poet Laureate from 2019-2021, a position she shared with M.L. Smoker.

Minneapolis, Montana

The Cloud Path is forthcoming from Milkweed Editions in 2024.

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