Issue 29: David Sahner


in a womb.

First movement

in a warm & viscous pool.

You are not

a derelict vessel.

The unborn book of flesh

written but unwritten –

spawning itself

at the reader’s invocation.

An encyclopedia of letters

from the before time

deciphering itself. 

What were you bequeathed?

Potash from the burned wood

of fires in which the bones

of an ibex lie undiminished.

Blue eyes and rangy limbs.

The arc of your muscle.

Or the relish of understanding

an unusual Queen’s

pawn opening. 

A forge in Vermont

where an old man bent iron

against its will.

Or that sugar mill in Brazil

filled with gray masses

of men crushing cane –

heating its juice

to a crystalized sweetness

so many years ago.

Pallbearers downed cachaca

at your ancestor’s death

asking what we haven’t gotten

about God as an egotist,

lapping our prayers like wine.

Flies feeding on our own pestilence.

The woman who sewed so assiduously

at a factory in New York

for the unseen rich.

Or seven lords:






sloth and wrath.

What remains in the ether

after you crown?

Trees of laughter

that send their leaves skyward?

I’ll wrap you in the linen

of your end-dreams.

The seals bark at snowy shores

in your hallucinations

but you must remain lucid.

You flew from a null space

with your odd wings

to learn the ways

of our dimensions.

Milky skies at daybreak

will feather your bed with lullabies.

Incipient flaws of character

line your bed

but the little grey cells give the lie

to those screaming

about the inadequacies of

our organs of perception –

our anemic words.

You will write

anonymous chapters

in the book of us.

When you read your Horace

will you sculpt the text again?


Every reading of the code is the first.

Adenine, cytosine, guanine, thymine.

Or to be painfully obvious:

adjective, clause, gerund, thought.

Each rupture from the old readings

a cataract of new meaning.

And you, the reader.





Unnamed places & hours

Not summer night:

The hours of steppe crickets – 

their stridulations.

Or a night in the season

that horses come to mate.

Not winter:

The months when steppe eagles

make their flames.

And aurochs mill

beside the floe-studded river.

Not spring:

The time of black grouse coo-coos

rat-tat-tatting before dawn.

Or tortoises foraging among

timothy hay and rose petals

near the ford that fills

with snowmelt.

Bountiful days when cave bears

dusted by the stars of sleep

crawl from hollow trees

asking for death.

Or the time when reindeer’s muscle

thinned from prior lack

makes us suck its marrow

for sustenance.

Not autumn:

The days of fat well-fed deer

when the cold edges in

and the beech leaves change.

Not a mountain with a proper name:

but this cliff where an ibex

finds footing in the crags

between shadows of spruce.

We have been here before.

The others have been here before:

the grey face with an oval opening

that says our only names.

Not home:

but room to break bones

for marrow, fatty marrow

and grease. 

A where to chisel spears from yew

beside a snapping hearth

in the same place as the old fires,

or to make cutters that serve us

with their sharp edges.

Others here cook birch bark for tar.

Or knap bones from bison

or wooly rhino. 

Small ones snap the joints

of rabbits apart, butcher blackbirds,

descale perch and chub,

or pull the feathers from crows.

Yes, little ones clap stones

together with a fierceness

and like the taste of honey

from stinger hives.

Others bring fireweed, sorrel,

walnuts, figs, lentil, and olives,

or velvet grasses for us to rest

our heads upon – 

no less important.

Here, where we smoke and dry

our meat before moving again.

A not-so-home for these weeks.



[David Sahner is a physician-scientist and poet whose poetry has appeared in journals on both sides of the Atlantic, including Tears in the Fence, Agenda, The Bitter Oleander, Connecticut Review, Catamaran, The Sandy River Review, Van Gogh's Ear, Blue Unicorn, and elsewhere.  His book-length collection, Hum, was published in 2022, and his work has been anthologized in several multi-author collections, most recently in a release from Anhinga Press.]



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