by J.I. Kleinberg

the precise taste of silence before the first jazz riff;
the pterodactyl wing-shape of a wind-turned umbrella;
the moment at the apex of its swing when a cradle pauses;
the beat that divides in-breath from exhale; the word
for listening in the dark for a sound that never arrives,
the sound itself unknown but heard by ghosts;
the unnamed letters in the alphabet of atonement;
the bright curve that highlights shadow, and equally
the shadow that shows us the lineaments of light;
the urge to look again for the falling tree, the leaping buck,
and the name for the empty place where they are not.
What word to use for the heart-sure optimism of beginnings
and the hollow awareness of slow endings; for the industry
of absence; the place where round crescents of a gull’s wings
are joined by raucous shriek, and the name for feeling you have wings
when you don’t have wings and the name for the wings
you don’t have; the mark on the map that locates the soul,
and the soul too; and the small triangles of emptiness
left by pinking shears; and the name for the breath-heat
between kisses; and the name for the second shadow,
the recluse that is unanswerable to the first.
I want to know these words, to illuminate with precision
the seed sounds of carob, honey locust, Royal Poinciana,
the voice of hairy bittercress, the many disguises of grief
as definite as the philtrum, the fingernail’s lunula,
as delicious and exacting as the fern’s unfurling crozier.


A Pushcart nominee and winner of the 2016 Ken Warfel Fellowship, J.I. KLEINBERG is co-editor of 56 Days of August (Five Oaks Press 2017) and Noisy Water: Poetry from Whatcom County, Washington (Other Mind Press 2015). Her poetry has appeared recently in OneDiagramWA129OtolithsRaven Chronicles, Calamus Journal, and elsewhere. She lives in Bellingham, Washington, and blogs most days at chocolateisaverb.wordpress.com and thepoetrydepartment.wordpress.com.