Two Poems

by Bonnie Shiffler-Olsen


How does one leave                a home?  Before the storm           Noah
cups his queen           tells her one day        he’ll turn her           loose

again.   Imagine rain       falling round the ark     inhabitants bobbing
in memory     of edits & the promise of seasickness                 erased

by baptism.        High in the ark      the paper queen        gnaws round
nails           that fix the roof      in place              & cool cyprus creaks

against the storm.      Her diaries flood      rafters, rattling framework
from within.             Forty days & forty nights             the ark ceiling

sways            with gopherwood            manuscripts,                taglines
prophets will          one day find        littering      the slopes of Ararat.

God      ultimately           ends          the rain & we find        the queen
                                    We walk      to & fro        up & down          saved

on dry ground      probing       pages to translate          abandonment’s
ghostly sting:            hives            unhinged,            like  directionless

stairways               fixed in space.            A drowned faith    when all
anyone      wanted       was another            glimpse                    of sky.

Before My Trans Son Called Himself Noah

I was already the ark—
had already weathered the storm

lived cased inside scaffolding shored
up by buttresses & beams.

The foolish man already built his house 
upon a tablet of soft clay over 

a high water table & shifting earth.
We swam before the floods came, like

animals between the walls of peeled
sheetrock, crumbling to ruin. Our crew

already huddled in the tempest’s hull 
surrounded by glass bones & 

wrought iron, black as pitch & lacking
seal of approval from either contractor

or his lovely wife. Ballasts lumbered 
against the tittering inner storms.

Lot’s wife, Sarah          —we were already
with them every step. Looking back 

laughing at ourselves & nothing,
but without laughter or longing.

When I say we let go, I mean she learned
to float away from the ark & all its holey

writ & she showed us how to paddle
against the whirling tides of scorn & disdain:

the mother who had carried me & I—whose 
animals lie secure in their dove’s eggs—

waited in the dark for release. She anchored the skiff 
somewhere off shore. Come hell or high water we would not

swim back.

BONNIE SHIFFLER-OLSEN’S poetry, essays, and photography are published in numerous journals and anthologies, including Crab Fat Magazine,SWIMM, Rust+Moth, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, and peculiar. In January 2015 they co-founded Rock Canyon Poets with poet Trish Hopkinson, and the companion poetry journal Orogeny. Shiffler-Olsen writes about the mundane, the profane, the sacred, and queer life. During the twenty years they single-parented three sons and a daughter, Shiffler-Olsen served as editor-in-chief for Utah Valley University’s Touchstones and BYU-Idaho’s campus newspaper, Scroll. Their professional credentials include activist, journalist, contemporary dance artist, and founder/director of a non-profit ballet.

Photo: “prism” by Takeshi Kawai