Previous  Back to Issue Next 

J.L. Conrad

The lungs are the seat of grief, / she tells me. Also something / about a vanishing twin.

Entering the Prayer

Something about shallows
and light pearling
in the collection units.

Our third month of catching
sleep in the cracks between.
And by catching I mean

as if a cat sliding
through one’s fingers, all bent
bone and sinew. The girls

who ask to be closer to God
find themselves paralyzed,
drawing animals with teeth.

Birds come in for a landing
like a band of drummers.
Brick-dust sky.

The still center of the labyrinth.
We’re at our wits end
with yearning. The box

of the present, the cage of
the everyday. The body’s
dumb ship navigating.

Marooned on the bed, with
moon snarled in the branches
of the sugar maple.

from Recovery

The lungs are the seat of grief,

she tells me. Also something
about a vanishing twin.

It is why, she explains, you have
a hard time with

closed doors. And do you
ever feel yourself in a room, talking

and then someone picking up
the threads of your words

and casting them out
again? Like slipping on a cloak.

For some organs to heal
she says, it takes years. In the mean-

time the house blooms with heat.

       *    *    *

In complete darkness, by which I mean
incomplete darkness, as always here—

the hard-edged bowl of the lake.

Someone might say chalice.
Some might say sword.

       *    *    *

Let us lead language there to drink.
Let us circumpose the wreckage

created by all those shining knives.
The expected deaths.

The professors of warfare
studied the long advance.

It is always happening somewhere
else. Beside the point.

Behind the fortifications.
It’s like forgetting how to swim.

Or having forgotten.
The better to understand you with.

Should I add my dear.

       *    *    *

It’s as though your whole body
is twisted, she says.

A spiral from the bottom of your neck
through your spine.

The parable is not the parabolic
though both do have curve, have landslide.

You might need to live with a certain
degree of pain, she says.

       *    *    *

I’m thinking of abandonment.
Or unabandonment.

How we rarely cast ashore.
Waves spitting us out.

Where you go, I will.
It occurs to me that maybe

we are speaking about transference.
Unraveling the prayer to its roots.

Paring it back to the core.

We hold hands and
blow out the candle.

J.L. Conrad is the author of the full-length poetry collection A Cartography of Birds (Louisiana State University Press) and the chapbook NOT IF BUT WHEN, which won Salt Hill’s Dead Lake Chapbook Competition. Her poems have appeared in Pleiades, Columbia, Salamander, The Beloit Poetry Journal, The Laurel Review and Forklift, Ohio, among others. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin.