Shannon K. Winston

Even the smallest things

Dream of Skulls

Swallows

The Blueprint



 

Even the smallest things

 
hurt. Take the woman in Taiwan kneeling
by a grave as dirt flew into her eye.
Swollen shut, it bulged, oozed, stung. Scrape, scrape scrape
a sound like a scalpel, like feet against
gravel, like leaves tap tap tapping glass or…
Or maybe it was a tingle forking
through her like lightning over water.
When doctors pried open her eye, they found
four tiny bees feasting on her tears.
Was she grateful that they had dried her sorrow
and that she had quenched their thirst?
Or was she struck by the way grief and pain,
thick and sticky, lodge so deeply
and so unexpectedly within the body?
 
 
 
 


 

Dream of Skulls

Kari Gunter-Seymour’s “Untitled,” photograph

 
No one    taught me    how
             to handle    fragile things:
 
the lone    egg on
             the countertop
 
that glistened
             like     a polished    skull.
 
Or    the one-inch  worry
             dolls  made    of   sticks
 
that cracked    like        bones
             under    my pillow
 
where    I placed    the tooth
             that    would not
 
give,    would    not give
             until    finally    it did.
 
When I held    a baby
             for the    first time,
 
I wanted    nothing
             more   than      to give
 
him back,     afraid    my fingers,
             curious and    eager,
 
might slip    into    the soft
             spot in    his head,
 
might    press
             a little   too hard.
 
Each ridge    tender,
             ripe like    the sweetest
 
peach.    In its center:    a pit
             tinged    crimson.
 
The trace of    where
             lips had    once been.
 
 
 
 



 

Swallows

 
Swallows
             on telephone wires
always remind me
 
             of clothespins. Their
shoulders and wings
             form the grooves.
 
The springs: the heart—
             Although from
a different angle,
 
             these birds
resemble minute
             marks on a clock,
 
as if time could be
             stretched out
on a line like so—
 
             Yes, I can almost
picture it: this instant
             pinning up a sheet
 
onto which I project
             memories I wish
I had had but were never
 
             mine. A yellow boat.
A lake. A teenage daughter
             and her father.
 
             How silently
they glide through water,
             which swallows their
 
every gesture.
             He paddles on the left,
she on the right
 
             in perfect
synchronicity. As she smiles,
             her dimples pocket
 
sunlight
             that also skims
his graying hair.
 
             Above them,
leaves carve blue
             shapes from sky,
 
air, and water.
             So too, do their oars.
One stroke is
 
             curved like a bird,
one is straight like
             a wire in the waves
 
             of memory.
Each slice is even
             and sure, the way
 
             their love
chisels, but never cuts
             too close to bone.
 
 
 
 


 

The Blueprint

Edward Hopper, Girl at Her Sewing Machine, Painting, 1921

 
Those who saw her day after day
never once asked what she was
thinking. If they had, they would
have stepped into a world
where lavender captures
Mondays, wood and nails conjure
Wednesdays, and apple blossoms
set the scene for Thursdays.
Some days cotton was the color
of yellow paint, at other times,
it tasted like macaroons. Foolish,
careless, ridiculous girl.
You’ll be a good wife, an even
better mother
, her aunt dreamed
up for her. You’ll be an accountant
or a lawyer
her father urged.
What about going to Paris
or Rome?
, her mother asked
flipping through travel magazines.
The girl nodded and smiled.
Behind her, light cast shadows
in the shapes of tunnels
that threaded through moss-
covered cities to the bluest
estuaries, to houses stitched
with tulips and baby’s breath,
to hummingbirds weaving
archways and bridges out of air.
A needle was her starting point.
The window frame was a foundation.
She would build from there.

 
 
 
 


SHANNON K. WINSTON‘s work has appeared or is forthcoming in the Dialogist, SWWIM Every Day, The Inflectionist Review, The Los Angeles Review, and Zone 3 among others. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and several times for the Best of the Net. She earned her MFA at Warren Wilson College and currently teaches in Princeton University’s Writing Program.


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