Greeting a Neighbor in the First Hour of Light

Photo: © Olga Breydo. All Rights Reserved.

Early morning insists. Each leaf,
branch, & stem is edged in fine white,
veins like fretwork. Sun brings up color.
Each breath hangs briefly as cloud,

footprints lodge green in gray grass,
a word spoken to hail a stranger
surprises the tongue in its lassitude,
surprises by its form, its clear unlikeness

to undisturbed air. It resembles
the first miraculous intelligence
of a mute from the far province within,
the words themselves helpless to say

whether they will be unlatched like gifts
or will fall to the cold earth unheard.
How does the mute draw these vessels
from the well in the desert, the mine

in which she unearths the mineral
self? There is the ore of the known.
It reaches the surface as words, crystalline,
striated, loosed from slag & shining.

The Russian word for old sounds like starry,
each describes that reference book
to which we’ve always looked: the starry night,
English or Russian, is older than memory.

In the risen light, only Venus remains shining.
We keep the old map buried in our darkness.
Cracked open, words release
what we’ve always known, pass it on beyond us.

Jennifer Brown has taught creative writing and literature in high schools, colleges, summer programs, and festivals and has held residencies at the Weymouth Center for the Arts and the Vermont Studio Center. In 2018, she won the Linda Flowers Literary Award from the NC Humanities Council. Her essays and poems appear in North Carolina Literary Review, Utterance: a Journal, IthacaLit, Atticus Review, and are forthcoming in the L.A. Review, Copper Nickel, and the minnesota review.

Appears In

Issue 10

Browse Issues