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
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