OXIDANT | ENGINE : Issue 5

Shannon K. Winston

Cyanotypes

For Anna Atkins, Botanist and the First Female Photographer

 

Slippery, wet algae                                                       dangle like pearls

 

Uprooted                                                                       like unclasped necklaces

 

from the sea                                                                  white imprints on salt paper.

 

A slow emerging                                                           of negative & positive        

 

of absences & presences                                            skeletal forms aglow.

 

Fucus nodosus,                                                            Furcellaria fastigiata—

 

strange syllables                                                           surface

 

on my tongue                                                               brilliant, biting, scaly—

 

In darkness,                                                                   phosphorescence, too, congeals in

 

my hands: how they burn with                                   star-like constellations,

 

ferric ammonium,                                                         and the finest lines.

 

Some people peer into the sky,                                  I sink down into waves

 

for the smallest sketches                                             of the infinite.

 

It all hinges on patience—                                           Let’s peel back the

 

shadows. Let’s let light through                                  separations of leaf and vein,

 

Let’s expose the inner workings                                 of bone, body, muscle                                  

 

of chemistry                                                                  to uncover how little

 

of ourselves                                                                   we truly know.              

 

Let’s turn the whole world blue—                              Let it all burst forth

 

and expose even our breath:                                      swelling, hurried, snagging on

small, almost unnoticeable                                         things.     

Shannon K. Winston's work has appeared or is forthcoming in Pretty Owl Poetry, Whale Road Review, A-Minor, Crab Orchard Review, Zone 3, among others. Her first poetry collection, Threads Give Way (Cold Press), was published in 2010. She earned her MFA at Warren Wilson College and her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She teaches in Princeton University’s Writing Program.