When My Mother Returns as X

Sarah Audsley

she multiplies herself to be every singleliving thing: a cloud of butterflies, six calvesgrazing in the field beyond the pines, grassbending to the wind’s steady pressure. She’sa swarm of bees seeking the dust of golden pollenhidden in the cups of poppies. She is an Xmarks the spot where she made me, the handthat never fed me, imprinting my DNAa second time. She is a white moon tippedover, brimming with milk for a body that’snot there. She multiplies herself to beevery form: the breeze lifting the white curtain;a pink silver-edged cloud expanding; the nightcoming on. When my mother returns, she isthe bitter in my mouth I can’t dilute; she swells inside;she’s the branch from which birds will never fly.

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Sarah Audsley is the author of Landlock X (Texas Review Press, 2023). A Korean American adoptee, a graduate of the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College, and a member of The Starlings Collective, Audsley lives and works in northern Vermont.

Huntsville, Texas

"In Landlock X, Sarah Audsley makes of lyric an intimate journey toward an impossible beginning. Toward what it means to belong, to see (and be seen), to insist on connection—fraught and forged—in and through profound severance. I am so moved by how, where reclamation may not be an option, Audsley intervenes with imagination, intellectual and emotional breadth, and courage, to 'choose [her] own extent.' This work simultaneously indicts and consoles; it roams colors, oceans, flowers, the black holes of lineage and nation(s), and stands its ground. 'Almost drowning is touching creation,' writes the poet, and I am compelled to reconsider the solidities I take for granted. To be alive."
—Cynthia Dewi Oka, author of Fire Is Not a Country

“Say the answer to the impossible equation is X. Now, let’s say you are solving for your life, an origin that feels constructed of absence. Such is the ferocity with which Sarah Audsley’s brave debut moves, formally active in its interrogation; it is as if somewhere—in poetry, in art, in translation—there is a combination for righting the painful history of adoption, for learning to live simultaneously with and against. ‘Why even now do I practice this insistence on beauty?’ the poet asks. And I cannot say how glad I am she does insist. As difficult as the subject matter is, these poems move me toward a kind of relief. ‘It’s never just enough to love.’ Landlock X is the evidence.”
—Sally Keith, author of River House

“‘Nothing about hunger is passive,’ writes Sarah Audsley in this deft debut. That a poet as versed in detail and Image would choose to write within the pastoral tradition is not surprising. What surprises, however, is the way Audsley uses the pastoral as a vehicle to express many griefs: loss of a mother; loss of a country; loss of a culture; and even loss of a way of life. Despite an abundance of grief, Landlock X stands not as simple elegy but as a triumph of the self. This is a powerful collection.”
—C. Dale Young, author of Prometeo

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