—for Mary Ruefle
Let time run through whatever is not us, I thought us, the braided word I wanted—our compact a singular rock untouched by tide our bank high against cut of current hours’ turn toward other horizons. But loss lives in every felt thing I touch my own skin, its spectral flux of vessels, fat, fascia already elemental, trembled without purchase. Let this churn be a homing Let this body hold the bodies it becomes Another cut: everything breaks everything goes
When I was twelve, my grandmother stopped recognizing her own reflection. I stood next to her as she searched the glass, eyes trained in the direction of someone expecting her own face. But she startled at the unfamiliar woman there, fringe of silver on her brow, shoulders rounded by years of cooking, chasing, children, mending. I wondered how a body that had held so much could forget its loves: violets, velvet on the tongue, the salt air at morning, the shape of those children, each one folded like heartwood in the womb. I imagined then this latest vacancy as restricted loss, an exceptional un- knowing. I stood aside and called it beyond. I let the loss happen, never thinking how it happened. How it happens. How now, a woman who looks like my mother, still sounds like my mother, speaks— and with a word undoes us. Unhomes me.
JULIE PHILLIPS BROWN is a poet, critic, painter, and book artist. Her first book of poems, The Adjacent Possible, won the 2019 Hopper Poetry Prize and will be published by Green Writers Press in 2021. Her poems and essays have previously appeared or are forthcoming in Borderlands, Columbia Poetry Review, Conjunctions, Crab Orchard Review, Denver Quarterly, Empty House Press, Interim, Jacket2, Literary Mama, The Oakland Review, Posit, Plume, Rappahannock Review, Revolute, Tahoma Literary Review, Talisman, Vinyl, Yemassee, and elsewhere. She is currently a Society Fellow at the Society for the Humanities at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY.