This new poem by Michelle Chan Brown came across my news feed this weekend. It’s a wonderful, memorable work and I wanted to share it. The poem, reproduced below, appeared on Linebreak.org on March 6, 2012 with the above audio reading by Stephaine Rogers.
What we heard about thirst was true.
Everywhere, water. Everywhere, salt.
And we drank it. We learned to love
our crumpling bones. Each sunspot
on our skin deserved a christening.
Distance gifted the world a shimmer.
Time passed, perhaps. We grew wolfish.
Spears of birdcall. Unthinkable birds.
We searched for the isle of women.
We searched for our dead fathers.
We searched for the hardware store.
We were used to solitude. Some of us
had worked the mills, where skylights crack
and loaned us starts. We learned to relish
the ownership of hours. Our sheets
acceded to the torpor. If you must,
call it sickness — the sea colonized us.
Below muslin, our heartbeats thrilled,
lazy as laps. Breezes licked our faces flat.
If we wept, we wept soundless as sand.
What wave would betray our trust?
Michelle Chan Brown’s Double Agent was the winner of the 2011 Kore First Book Award, judged by Bhanu Kapil. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Cimarron Review, Sycamore Review, and The Missouri Review, among others. She earned her MFA at the University of Michigan and lives in Pomfret, Connecticut, where she is the Writer-in-Residence at Pomfret School and Poetry Editor of drunken boat.