Just when you think you know where you are headed, a poem will turn you around and place you firmly in a surprising direction. Liane’s writing is lean yet intensely vivid with a focus on concrete images. Dread, joy and the beautifully ordinary coexist within her poems.
evening tilts away
evening tilts away
after James Schuyler
and suddenly it’s november again. in here
the lamp in the corner sheds its timid light
and beyond these walls the bees and the wasps
and the moths and the bees have stilled
their constant buzz and suck. what now
these faded flowers of the field? it has been
my job to learn their names.
out there the boneset browns. swamp
milkweed surrenders silken threads to the rigid
air and there the button bush fades
to crimson seed. the earth tilts away and away.
I say so long to the dissolving day. the sky flows
and flows like water and I wait for things I can hear
in the dark.
"evening tilts away": first appeared in The Poet's Touchstone Volume 64 Number 2 in March 2023
ode to the imperfect moon
my east begins with you.
in your easy light
I stand beside the long
shadows of my life.
I want to swallow
the world but know
it won’t go down
instead I turn these rock
and rotted logs
in search of crickets.
surely I can swallow
crickets, swallow them whole
and pray these words out loud:
tibia / femur / tarsus / claw.
and when I walk
my feet will sing.
Acknowledgement: 'ode to the imperfect moon' first appeared in Moist Poetry Journal, October 6, 2022
in which I die, become bird-tree
if I say I hear the thirst of trees
I mean I hear the rush
and rise of my own blood
in the swell of a thousand buds.
if I hear leaves rustle and unfurl
I mean I hear myself unfold, become
a flapping bird / tree / night-bird.
I know a word the way a word knows
water, the way water finds its shape,
becomes what it wants.
I open the window and unwinter,
listen for things I can hear in the dark —
like the ringing in my ears / like the moon
is a bell / like it’s time to come home
like a bird / like a bird in a tree.
Acknowledgement: 'in which I die, become bird-tree' first appeared in print in Yellow Arrow Journal: Upspring, Vol. VII, No. 1, Spring 2022
in which robins appear
I was born this way:
half woman / half weed /
feet in the ground
& a mouthful of mud.
when I tell you
I crawled from my
seedmother & shouted
halleluja let there be
green. she fed me dung
& straw & I was thankful.
but today it snows.
through one brown
eye I saw a winter robin
whinny past. it’s true:
some believe the dead
are near when robins appear.
verily, snow falls &
falls & robins are near.
Acknowledgement: 'in which robins appear' first appeared in Hobart After Dark 5/11/2022
oh honey, the starry night
my bliss is not the treacle of the hive nor the sap
of the tree but the spin of the earth on a silver
night. there is a spinning in my head when the road
is dark and my step is light and the lights in the houses
give away the good neighbors with all their spinning plates
and if a window were open you could hear the ringing
of their forks and the singing of their knives
if they opened
the door just a crack their cat would steal into the night
with a slice of yellow light. I spin and they spin and the earth
spins and the cat spins and when I look up into the sugar-flecked
sky it begins to melt and oh my god it tastes like we are all
the same dust.
Acknowledgement: 'oh honey, the starry night' first appeared in Hobart After Dark 5/11/2022
family prayer to the patron saint of un
fast backward starry night
to time before fat slap
uncry weep girl
part hand from face
ungasp sharp breath
unslur word slurry
unmud loud mouth
girl unclasp your momma’s hand
go greet your daddy at the door
where dust motes float in slice of final
and then undrink amen.
Acknowledgement: 'family prayer to the patron saint of un' first appeared in Hobart After Dark 5/11/2022
self-portrait as your worry stone
I taste of salt. salt of the ocean and salt of your palm. you move your thumb
back and forth / back and forth across my back / across my back I carry the worry
of water that rolled me back and forth against flanks of sand and a bed of stones
so that I may carry yours. I know your blistered soul. I see where you go when you turn
out your light. I know your keys / your leather wallet / loose coins / the many man-things
on your nightstand. I am volcanic — your flare, your flash. when you wake, you summon
my heat and spring creeps closer. daphne blooms. a phoebe sings her name. the shadow
of a wasp outside your window treads across the sunlit blinds, builds its paper house.
Acknowledgement: self-portrait as your worry stone appeared first on Roi Fainéant Literary Press, March 6, 2022.
unbeliever, what is your north star?
I calibrate the ticking of my pulse to the chime of the earth ringing
like a bell on winter nights. you believe in holy but I believe in haloed
moons that foretell a glaze of new snow. O, the unbearable beauty
of it all. the surprise of a hexagon is enough to bring me to my knees.
my own mother ebbs, confides that when she goes to sleep she wonders
if she will wake in the morning. I know I can't keep her pressed between
the pages of a book like one of spring's first violets. and I, now too an eggless
woman, consider each sequential folding and unfolding of that moon,
set my breath to its sensible division of time and pray: ichi-go, ichi-e.
Acknowledgement: 'unbeliever, what is your north star' first appeared in Emerge Literary Journal:2022, Issue 21, February 13, 2021.
with clouds like this no wonder
my viewpoint is compromised
by falling temperatures
and unbending earth.
but go ahead.
try to believe me
when I tell you stars fell
from sullen skies
and lit the garden beds
where earthworms rest
between the sleeping roots.
ah, you think —
I present a metaphor,
I must mean snow for sure.
but no, I mean
I am a willful liar.
they were diamonds.
Acknowledgement: 'with clouds like this no wonder' first appeared in The Poets' Touchstone (print) Vol. 63 #2 Winter 2021/22
my mother is killing her african violets
my mother molts,
sheds her witch-skin,
grinds her three good
teeth and her magic
runs for the hills.
through cataract-fog she overwaters another plant.
one summer, while tending the garden,
she threw a horn worm into the fire pit.
I watched its skin split and hiss like a tomato
thrown into boiling water.
its moth-ghost waits,
calls her name.
Acknowledgement: 'my mother is killing her african violets' first appeared
in The Hallowzine Issue 2 October 2021
what to expect when your sister is cremated
while you are cleaning out her drawers
(because her daughter can’t), she burns.
you make two piles: the wearable
and the unwantable. this is what it boils
down to — goodwill and garbage bags.
they say that solids turn to gas
when heated high enough: her eyes /
her skin / her hair / the fat / but bone
remains and gets ground down
and given back. you read the facts.
you know what happens to the holy vessel
that rode shotgun in the car you drove
to where the phone poles end — and when
you thought you were lost for good they appear
again, sturdy messengers along earthbound
roads where unheard voices hum.
Acknowledgement: 'what to expect when your sister is cremated' first appeared in Sidereal Magazine, Issue Eight, Aug. 2021
how to know a mulberry leaf
place a leaf in the hollow of your hand.
close your eyes and burn the shape to memory.
grow smaller, smaller yet — even more small
until you are cradled in the cleft of its cordate form.
stand up. follow the mid-rib highway.
turn left or right. it matters not —
all roads lead. close your eyes and burn
the curve of each lobe to memory.
walk north, then south. in then out
to the tip of each point. follow each serration
until you are dizzy and can no longer stand.
note the scent of rainfall on very dry ground.
remember where you are. close your eyes
and burn the toothed margin to memory.
lie face down and stare into the tender leaf.
separate the layers with your eyes
and burn the green to memory.
If you are feeling overwhelmed it’s ok. cry.
Acknowledgement: 'How to Know a Mulberry Leaf' first appeared in Sidereal Magazine, Issue Eight, Aug. 2021
upon reading 1,000 birds fly into skyscrapers
before I sensed
the untold secrets
of birds and before I knew
the histories of quick warm hearts
and before I renewed
my own heart’s history
of an easy autumn morning,
there it was in black and white:
an apparition of blood and feathers.
I read the news and chew
the words like day-old bread,
ponder the shadows cast by crumbs.
birds — their souls remain a mystery
but this I know: if not for glass
houses and a mirage of clouds.
stay, I whisper toward
dark firs where chickadees
still sleep. stay with me.
together we’ll wait for a different sky.
Acknowledgement: 'upon reading 1,000 birds fly into skyscrapers'
first appeared in The Banyan Review, Issue 6, Summer 2021
what is a dog, anyway
you ask about my grief —
well here it is.
my heart: a ball of yarn,
neat bundle, smoothly wound
and in good order until
the earth tilts / my heart rolls /
my world unwinds / becomes
a tangle of salt and dirt,
a muddle of earth and bones.
what is a dog, anyway, you ask.
I tell you: she was my woolen heart.
Acknowledgement: 'what is a dog, anyway' first appeared
in The Banyan Review, Issue 6, Summer 2021
and so the days become less golden. yielding to the weight of their august fruit, blackberry canes lean acutely angled. the yellow cat’s thirsty bones cry from under the forsythia and the waning moon nods in agreement: soon. but right now there are no vacancies in this carnival of symmetries and divine proportions. there is no room for rain.
no room for five-petaled buttercups. no room for honeybees. no room for dragons, real or imagined. no room for ants, no house of mirrors. heavy air leaves no room for breath, yet I sing: glory be! heaven and earth are full! leave this earth to its seasonal tilt, its public revelry, its processions and masquerades. heaven and earth are full, I say to you.
Acknowledgement: 'full tilt' first appeared in The Penmen Review, February 2020