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Dana Guthrie Martin


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You were one cell for half an hour.

I was one cell for half an hour,
and then I was more and more.

Unable to contain my own
becoming, I swelled into what

was not me and made it me,
staked claim. I knew words then,

even before language hit my tongue,
fast and hot, like a branding iron

on the hip of a stunned cow.
Knew whole. Knew miracle.

Most of all, I knew mine, all mine,
applied the concept to everything,

hence the world came into being
with, and because of, me –

my fingers on bark gave rise to
forests; my breath built the sky.

When I looked at you that first day,
with eyes of pure water, holy lakes,

I brought you back to the living.
Every time I looked away, you died.

inland beach

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Handful by handful, wind carries

sand over the tops of these flows.
My husband and I scale barb wire,

climb past sage and dry flowers.

Volcanic rock crumbles, shifts
under our feet, dark as a field

newly burned, dark as shame.

High above, the Twin Sisters
share the age-old story of marriage.

Coyote, their jealous husband,

turned them into pillars; turned
himself into a rock to watch over

them forever. Behind the pillars,

collected sand forms a waterless
beach, the river visible in the far

distance. We lie together in love

and regret, each of us a Coyote;
our fear turning us both to stone.

We rise, make our way to the twins,

whose eroding bodies remind us
even love and its curses will pass.

halloween barn party

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Every year some pair arrives in a two-person
horse costume. The front half drinks too much,
passes out,
leaves the other half headless.

The one inside the head
wakes the next day
amid real, indifferent horses, the smell
of beer and vomit rising toward the sky, rising.

given no choice

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The cool morning wafts sulfur as I pace
sidewalks near our home. I didn't miss
this scent all summer, when hot air

kept the chemical from slinking east
70 miles, along the valley from Wallula,
where the paper mill hugs Highway 12

and the Columbia River. An engineer
from Hanford told me sulfur is key
to turning wood into paper, and we note

even a trace, a few parts per million.
Like pollen, the air shakes loose
other odors. Some days, it's the stench

of thick manure at the slaughterhouse.
Other days, it's the burning dead
at the crematorium. Locals joke

that when you think you detect barbeque,
it's not barbeque – just another trick
of the senses. Pretty much any smell

set adrift here rises – in one form
or another – from something dead
or well on its way to dying.

The wind gives lift to what has fallen.
The nose, offered no choice, lets it in.

things tell their stories

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I went half a day without you, then a whole day.
Burning tumbleweeds
leave a mark behind them, so I traced
a thin line of char through the bright field.

Outside, the trees snap and crack in the wind like
your unforgiving back when you rise
from a chair or a bed that strains under your weight.
All I want is the lightness of this line, this one line all to myself.

you, too, can look through time

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backwards, where children from long ago
will entertain you by walking on stilts. Or maybe
you will watch a woman
you once knew curl into bed alone,

her skin warm as a blanket. Who knows what you'll see
when you treat time as a sleeve, one end open
to another, not as a sieve through which it keeps
falling, falling away.

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