Her house was bright, and dark.
I press my hands against a tree
with girth like a boulder
and the shards of light on the ground around us
were her windows
shattered the moment she screamed
in the fire.
A brush of wind tells me
I have business elsewhere now
but I turn inward
to the carved furrows in the tree trunk
wide as my fingers pressing there
for a brayer of ink
Amazing prints I saw once
hauling wood through a town no different
from any other.
Through the runny window
I glimpsed a man in a blotched apron
hauling on a lever, leaning with all his might to get it
round, and when the bundle slid out,
to my eyes it was as if he had drawn in
all the ranging companies of the world and merged them
into one spellbinding tableau.
I stood as long as I could spare
and yearned with all my heart
to gouge out my own picture
raise up all the hard lines
the unseen dimensions
mark them with ink
surrender them to paper
and turn the lever.
I wasn’t the one to take pebbles.
I could never manage to get lost.
I don’t know who I am
in this new print of the world.
My hands aren’t even singed.
Was it so easy?
In the last second,
I saw my looming shadow
bent across the ceiling
I had been shoving things
hard for a week,
only half pretending
I didn’t know why.
Yet nothing was ever harder:
in the second past the last second
I saw, finally,
that I was about to burn
every capacity I had carefully built
to carry any load on my back
and watch the ground
so closely it came to me in poems
granules of dirt suspended in raindrops
entire universes that I built because I had to.
Still I reached.
There was an intricate architecture to all this,
impossible to sketch out.
Our desperation was her relish
And with her fire and appetite she was ready
with the totality and casualness
of a bear chomping a live fish
to eat us both
she challenged me
to do it first
And I laughed, after
my face froze that way
just before I ran
I lean my whole body into the tree and pray
for the brayer
in desperate words I don’t recognize
and I’m terrified they might be hers –
this is a magical place that bends both ways
But the pressure, when it finally comes
of paper and printing press
merges me entirely
with the tree
and with my eyes shut
against the inner thickness of the bark
I can see the print that rolls out
after a long, close time
one thick, immovable tree in a dark woods, light gleaming
from its deepest runnels.
My hands –
I’ve been afraid of them
since the push, and the burst of fire. But now
I can see them against the light
and then I see them unlocking my brother’s cage
And where I learned to picture them being cut off and roasted for doing that
instead they keep changing now – knives, keys, chisels, lightning.
I might even have unlocked her chest of baubles as well, I realize,
but ran and left it
for later. Lingering smoke would only remind him
of how long he had been on the outside.
A bat swerves in, neatly avoiding
stipples of electricity reaching into the
shape of the air
and this tree and everything between, finding me.
I expect it to flit off again, but instead
it aims directly for the underside of a central limb,
and rests there. Together,
we pass wings before moonlight
filtering through the leaves, and slowly
the fiery heat lifts
and curls away.
Her house was bright, and dark,
if you can imagine such a thing. When I pushed,
our shadows sprang at each other
and in that moment
I mistook whose was whose.
But I’m grown bigger than that now.
One hand against the tree, then a finger
The wind matches my stride as I walk steadily toward
the jewels that will pay for my own printing press.
The bat flies off at top speed
twisting and whirling through densest canopy
in search of dinner,
and it never
to hitting anything.
Contributor’s Notes: Rachel Korr is an adjunct English professor with an MFA in creative writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her work has appeared in Gargoyle Magazine, Gravity Dancers, and Talking River.