OXIDANT | ENGINE : Issue 6

Jeremy Michael Reed

On remembering where we swam, the time that’s passed since then


using Sappho’s fragment 19

 


As I approach river water surface,
all I hear is break and waiting.
The way streams move in sacrifices,
cracking molecules, having good
posture, then not, sloughing, is how
the earth shifts its weight toward but going
into canyon, water, stepping forward, for we know
how wind shifts curves of air, of works,
accomplishments, marking time, making
any all of what we’ve done an after
leaning over an edge and toward
the present moment, but water slips, says this:

On hearing your voice over the phone, I want to ask for your touch


using Sappho’s fragment 4

 


Put your hand here, above my heart,
and feel blood move my skin, absolutely
free of my will, free of decision-making. I can
feel it quicken and slow, but the rhythm’s mine
without my making it so, would be for me
even if I wasn’t. I seek to shine in answer
to your face with my own face,
to your song with my own song. Here, take what I bring:
I breathe like a rippling cloth having been stained
with wine, how only then one sees each thread in its curve.

On waking in the night, at first unable to see, and yet knowing


using Sappho’s fragment 20

 


Along the rock beach, after the rain, in the shadows
of mountains already swathed in night’s storm-dark, gladness
for lying beside you rests in the pit of my stomach.
The lake water accepts rain from the sky with good luck,
each droplet caught, cupped by open water, to gain the harbor
of like feeling: water to water, breath breath, the dark of black earth
meeting more soil. And yet, I am awake in difficulty, in difference:
the wind beat the side of our tent, making me grateful to not be sailors
out on the lake, cold water wrapping feet, choking in big blasts of wind,
wishing for any clear path to shore, to safety upon dry land.
In fact, it’s the storm’s noise that woke me, its after-effects
of wind in the valley, tree limbs clipped by force as if sail
caught by gale to point of breaking, recognizing the freight
of cedar, juniper, hemlock, fir, of the point when,
awakened in the middle of the night with all else,
fish to chipmunks, snakes to wolf or elk, all the many
sleepers suddenly eyes opened to a sky they can’t see,
we feel the weight of wind held by trees, imagine breaking
as they seek shelter from the rain. In the midst
of blind wakefulness, open to all other senses, my skin works
to remind me of your body nearby, the effect it has like dry land
discovered suddenly there, warm. The wind dies down, all takes
on a hush, even our breathing. I see almost nothing,
but not quite.

Jeremy Michael Reed is a PhD candidate in Creative Writing at the University of Tennessee. His poems are published in Still, Stirring, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and elsewhere, including the anthology Bright Bones: Contemporary Montana Writing. He lives in Knoxville, where he is the editor-in-chief of Grist: A Journal of the Literary Arts, associate editor of Sundress Publications, co-director of The Only Tenn-I-See Reading Series, and assistant to Joy Harjo.