by Monika Cassel

A man watches news about us about you					
I’m in the house speaking with my daughters
about where and how many how were hurt
and what will happen now

outside, afternoon sunlight 							
falls against my words, across the lawn,
climbs the maple the twin windows reflect. 
Which daughter will dawn?

Evening light. The crows wonder what help 					
comes. Every day a web—the cloudbank 
settling on the hills, house to house,
—what more to give my children? 

Give today the cloudbank. Here am I alive 					
and in a body awake. Clouded. House shut tight.
I cannot say how to bear I do not know what word
I hold no. I’ll peel and chop the garlic soon for dinner,

catch a syllable now— grief, carried,						
swims words from house to house,
city to city. I might hold my daughters’ hands 
but often they decline.

Ask me to name the tree across the street. Ask me				
where I come from. I grew in my mother in a country at war
as she grew in hers, as my children grew inside me in another before 
I was birthed. By the fire a place to curl up 

& quiet the crows that congregate 						
on neighborhood trees. My daughter—tall, tall—
asks me to hold her. My words bubble up the gray coils 
of the power substation across the street. My hand a fence. 

She tells me a little about her day. She shuts the door, 			
I answer. The spice smell of her hair slices soft 
through the clock of my own childhood. I walk out, see 
the west hills over other houses when I round the corner. 

The year’s last tomatoes pale red. People call out names 		
quiet hum of the machine tired rain on the cheek 
a hummingbird pale moon shading darker. But see 
who was lined up who is the target

here not here when on our street we say					
no never here a no man’s land not 
a long journey home lost the child now grown
remembers the motion of travel

not here we think a lost home a child							
nothing left the child now grown remembers
but no once again the man watches
the screen shows one thing.

So much I have carried something is broken sometimes 			
the hand rests where it was building. The crispness 
of a daughter who wants. The soft curl of her limbs when 
she hides in her bed. 
The beater paddle’s clang bread leavening never knowing 		
which day night dark upon the city lingers across 
treetops soft cheese cut into blocks a pot of milk dropped 
and left where it fell come 

let me catch you								

cowed. Careful. Count me, here 						
—I do not know 	light crowded 
like fog. Where are the hands coming
like the sound of crows 

this one keeps singing me this one’s round, 						
this one’s quiet? To birth is to fail someone—
I’m hoping twilight’s end the undone I was carved 
a pinprick wanting to choose wishing no surprise 

though joy keeps striding into new qualities of 				
light knowing one word too many can snap 
a sentence again. Joy when I am not alone lingers
I swim words.

We mark our ballots here 								
a sparrow 	we swim upstream who knows 
when I can sleep
with fruit with the heavier air

who knows what is unmarked. Whose loss? 					
Names written		my house 
yes here again I come soft
you are here here here come quiet


Monika Cassel‘s poems have appeared in The Laurel Review, Phoebe Journal, and Construction Magazine, and her translations from German have appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review, Guernica, and Asymptote, among others. Her chapbook Grammar of Passage (flipped eye publishing 2021) won the Venture Poetry Award. She is a degree candidate in poetry at Warren Wilson College’s MFA program and is a teaching artist with Writers in the Schools in Portland, Oregon. Twitter: @MonikaCassel