Monday Aug 08

Stein Poetry Jen Stein is a feminist writer, advocate, teacher, mother and finder of lost things in Fairfax, Virginia. Her work has recently appeared in Cider Press Review, Thirteen Myna Birds, Vector, the Northern Virginia Review, and Nonbinary Review. Jen is assistant editor for Rogue Agent Journal. Her website can be found here.

Dormancy / Awakening

A burrowing-out, a borrowing,
white-gold blossoms pressed

skirting whirl, dusking pollen,
my legs blanched weak from disuse.

Speak in tongues of scared hush
pry open the nape of my neck,

plum within plum. Read portents
in the fallen petals that gather,

an uplift of wind stirs needles
and pins in my numb leg.

The Bradford pear spreads seeds
to uproot the crab apples,

daffodils die before their cups
fill with rain. My wood hands

can’t wake up shoots of basil
or cattails in the damp shallows.

Grant then sunshine on my hips,
permeation, my breasts become

lumens, sun to root in my lungs
and let me blossom, leg as root,

pelvis as stem, let starlings fly
from my unmuted mouth,

wrens from my palms, finches
from my eyes. I am becoming.

Rock Hunting on Lake Superior

My mother crouches, running the rocks
from the shore beneath her fingers.

She is feeling for something, a telltale sign,
a texture that belies a quartz center.

When she finds a flat, smooth basalt,
she hands it to me. My thumbs trace the stone –

warmer than my own palms, which splash
in the freezing waters of Lake Superior every day,

trying to scoop minnows from their hiding spaces.
I do not know that the basalt she hands me

is over a billion years old. I admire the heat,
the smoothness, run the softness over my cheek

before I try to skip it. My father can skip four times.
When I can skip twice, I am praised twice,

for my effort and for my acknowledgement.
These rocks come from the water, they are smoothed

shaped by the lake, and returning them to their home
is their birthright. I, too, have a birthright,

but I do not yet know what it is. My favorite stones
are vesicular rhyolite. I know these are formed from bubbles

when lava cooled, when the earth’s crust was formed,
and they wash up on the shores from time to time.

I recognize them by their pock-marks. I try to fit
tiny bits of rock and shell within the holes, as though

I am repairing. They do not need repair- they are as they are.
My pockets are always full of them, red and holey.

At home, I bury them beneath the pine trees. Perhaps,
if they grow into pine trees, the cones will have holes,

the boles will have holes. Stems and straws, fairy castles
built from the newness of bodies. I whisper secrets

before I bury them – the dream I have, with my father’s
voice, booming from the sky – the voice of god,

who tells me I must not go into the woods. I whisper
that my neighbor threw me into the lake and watched

as I screamed, as I clawed at the sky, then fished me out
just before I drowned. He told me, never tell, never go

into the water, never go alone. I tell this to the rock,
so the trees can grow and keep little girls from the water,

keep little legs from tiring, from being swept
into the undertow. My mother’s prize is agates.

She collects these by the handful. She places them
in wide-mouthed mason jars, lined up in the window.

When the light glows through them, all that is white
becomes dim, a sepia, everything turns amber and gold.