Landscape with Loss in Motion

Kat Neis

There are no gods here at the foot of my bed on this cold morning,
           no gods I have found to bother in our valley of birch & river thrush.
I stood in the barn with its rafters dusty & leather & watched the horses outside
           rooted in their pastures. If their hooves could grow deep into earth,
perhaps they would become trees. In the same way, our bodies are always in motion,
           in orbit, or collapsing towards other bodies with more gravity than ours.
So we watch the sun & do not blink. Once I thought the birches were our ghosts,
           pale sun touching only the extremities of their limbs so they were glowing,
haloed, a white so bright I was afraid of that color. Or was it an absence
           of color, the most terrifying thing of all. No wonder seeing a woodpecker
in flight, I wanted to follow her—this bullet of blood & feather & claw. So many things
           disturbed in this valley, landscape twisting in upon itself. Heaving. A tornado
of departures. Today I rise early & look beyond its ridge, beyond
           the line of birch skeletons, beyond, beyond, beyond.
At the crest of the valley, I can still see our numbered ghosts lined up,
           arresting our attention, all eyes & ash & staring blind at the sun.


Author’s Commentary: When I was first starting playing around with the concept of this poem, I was nearing the end of college in Ohio. During my time there, I would often spend long afternoons at a horse farm nearby, riding and taking lessons. Located at the deep pit of a valley, the farm was always a source of stillness for me. One night after a lesson, I remember standing in the barn and looking out—and upwards—to the rim of the valley, the trees, the horses quiet in their pastures. In the way that often happens when I stumble across the triggering moment of a poem, I felt as though the moment bore its way deep into my bones and refused to leave me.

Born and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Kat is a freelance writer, poet, and editor. Her poetry has appeared in Zone 3, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, Equinox: Poetry and Prose, Lake Effect, and others. She is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Siblíní Journal, a creative magazine publishing the work of young writers and artists.