The Boiler

Claire Wahmanholm

MY LIFE AS A NIGHTJAR

Dear nightjar,
dear hunkered-down
hunger:

teach me
(born un-swan,

born a squat goat-
sucker)

crypticity,

the art of lying low-
hearted,
splay-bodied,

hidden
in bracken.

Sing your churr
into the heath
of my ear,
into my moth-mouth.

Feed me dusk.

Your shadow-
less flight,
the crepuscular
signature

of your feather
is one

I am suited for.

As everything tumbles
softly
into smaller

and smaller things,

your whip-poor-will torpor
is indivisible.

My heart is already tumbling
into rock,
into acorn,
a thorn.

I am already
lorn.

I am already
nearly not here.


SIRIUS

Heat unrolls its dog tongue across us
like paint. Like panting.
Like the way we’re trying to breathe
in this solder-air that fuses us
chest to chest so that our lungs make
a four-winged bird’s four pink wings,
which flutter as we take turns
breathing. We gasp in fields
of sawgrass and asters. We gasp
in riverbeds and the beds of trucks.
There is so not enough that our sight
dies in patches—a star shape dies from
my right eye, a pyramid from your left.
Slowly these bite the fields into crumbs
of constellations—the stray dog,
the broken-winged bird, the torn sail—
whose myths are bad-starred and blighted
as we are. We reach around each other’s bodies
to feel the feathers, the mange, the sailcloth.
We reach past the dark’s teeth and it bites
our fingers off and our hands get lost
in the soft of its throat. Our elbows
catch in its gullet. Shoulder by shoulder
we tumble into a new, brightest heat.


THE ROAD IS A WHIP

Is a cotton-mouthed hiss.
A kiss
like burlap as

you drag your face along it. Feels
like skin. Fills

your mouth
with

friction. The sky is
a hole.                The sky is
an infinite mouth dragging its gasp across
you.       At night, this
thought unties
you as

you stare into its throat,
the wheat

of your hair
patterned with tar,

the sky crumbling
into your mouth like dirt,             onto your tongue
like a song,
which sings: wring

my wrists with Black-Eyed Susan vine,
my spine
with common
ivy.          Dust me with dusk, then
dust me with snow, then
soften
the bones of my face, already frozen
in
a wink:        one
eye open,
one
eye gone.

________________________________

Claire Wahmanholm‘s poems are forthcoming from The Journal, Parcel, The Kenyon Review Online, 32 Poems, The Blueshift Journal, BOAAT, Unsplendid, and Third Coast. She is a PhD student at the University of Utah, where she serves as co-editor of Quarterly West.