To Forge, to Forget
A tree is not a home.
I had thought a tree was home.
But I am not a bird, nor a squirrel,
though I would like to be.
No, not a tree. Not a single tree.
The land is barren as ice.
Houses huddle in a little flock,
trying to keep warm. Keeping cold.
If I enter one house, I see
the door close behind me,
and no window keeps a record
of my presence on this earth.
I am not here. I am
somewhere in a tree, burrowing
the deepest part of me
where no one can see.
Do these houses vanishing
into the white and plangent land,
do they see their aloneness
in snow that falls upon them?
A hand touches a tree as a comb
runs through hair. A comb,
a brush belongs to a house,
but is not the house, as roots are
not the dark earth. Touch this quiet
sorrow of huddled houses
and you will understand strings.
I don’t mean violins, cellos.
I mean how we reach out
to each other. I mean how
the cold land answers back.
How I tie my house to your house
with a string of black and see
a string of white strung elsewhere.
Other than in my mind. Other than
your voice coming like wind, gusting
the silent snow against the silent
door where no one hears a tree.
If I Caused a Stillness
To say house and mean night.
To mean I once was here.
To think I am here no longer.
In the house that once meant thought.
To not be able to think, because the blue
of the mind builds a box inside
which is dangerous to burn
just one guttering candle.
To see the flicker in the mind
that means Oh, the sun can’t rise
again, no, the sun won’t rise.
Because the house was built of blue,
hides inside a blue box where no one
can see. Except the other blue house,
the one whose company is a bird.
A dark night bird, a grey owl,
screeching inconsolably, unheard,
to tell of the blinding that is day
inside the night of box. You see,
lonely owl, it is day, though
it feels like night. It is night,
though ten thousand moons
can’t outrace this sun, this sun
burning out in two houses
whose hopes lay buried, whose children
lay buried like tiny boxes of shine,
tiny loves whose hopes once meant
Oh, but to keep a thing whole
is to recognize only a whole thing
can feel its pieces go broken.
If I live, you will never know,
little owl, how hard I tried
to keep you. Until the flame
went out. Until night pressed
its other box around you,
and not a thing could fly.
Gillian Cummings is the author of two books of poetry: My Dim Aviary (Black Lawrence Press, 2016) and The Owl was a Baker’s Daughter (The Center for Literary Publishing at Colorado State University, 2018). She lives with her husband and grey parrot in White Plains, New York.
Julianne Farella is an artist and art educator from Hawthorne, New York. Her artwork is rooted in exploring the ambiguous space of home through texture and memory, and has evolved to experimentation with paper, clothing, and textile collages. Through her paintings, she assembles textures and symbols to evoke feelings of comfort, confinement, and distance which work together to form an ambiguous loft of how we perceive a home space. Julianne teaches art in the White Plains City School District, is an MSEd candidate at the State University of New York (SUNY) at New Paltz, and has earned her BFA in Drawing & Painting, and her BS in Visual Art Education from SUNY New Paltz. www.juliannefarella.com