Jennifer Saunders is a US citizen currently living in German-speaking Switzerland. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Pittsburgh Poetry Review, Spillway, Stirring: A Literary Collection, ucity review, and elsewhere. She recently earned her MFA from Pacific University, and when she's not writing she can probably be found at a hockey rink somewhere either watching her sons play or teaching the littlest hockey players how to skate in hockey school.
Note Pinned to My Lips
Where is the vocabulary for this,
teach me the language.
For attraction, say water lily
anchored to the pond's silt bottom.
I can fill my mouth with frogspawn,
but I can't ripple the pond with tadpoles,
can't multiply my longing by grace.
How to say fragile, how to say maybe,
how to say to choose and to not choose
are the same kind of drowning.
For mistake, say gravel,
for I'd do it again, say rain, say river
say rose. Teach me the syntax of apology,
the grammar of patience;
teach me how many spaces to place
between words, between bodies.
For too early in the season
say cattails, say reeds, say rushes.
For too late in the year
say rusted blooms on the sumac.
Instead of my hand say, lavender.
Instead of come here use robin,
a tuft of moss in its beak.
Somewhere a nest,
a pair of speckled eggs
tucked beneath the eaves,
something hatching, something
stretching its wings.
Instead of love say, blooming rapeseed;
instead of desire, stinging nettle.
For take off my clothes, use flock of starlings
forecasting the weather in their dip and rise.
For lay me down say stream,
say waterfall, say covered bridge.
For yes say luna moth. Say monarch butterfly.
Say bluebird. Say bluebird bluebird bluebird.
The early drafts of this poem were inspired by a quote from a story in The New Yorker. A woman who confessed to a murder she didn't commit said "Once things came out of my mouth, it was like a big book. It just opened up — all the pages." I was struck by the idea that once we say something, it opens up and we lose control of it. I kept trying to write about all the things that come out of my mouth when somewhere around draft number 10 I realized the poem is about the things I can't say, about the way we have to find new vocabularies for new experiences. Everything about the poem changed for me then and it went in an unexpected direction.
Glass: A Journal of Poetry is published monthly by Glass Poetry Press.
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