Sara Ryan


            after Li-Young Lee

A field of poppies blooms
between my fingers—
my father grabs a needle
and tells me to hold still.

I am not a patient child,
or a curator of pain , so I become
a young bird,

I dig at a splinter
until my palm begins to bleed.
A rose opens.

I remember my small white hand,
a ceramic plate, and a circle
of red, growing as the heart
in my palm pulsed free.

My fathers voice is low,
and his fingers are much bigger
than mine—he loses me
in a story about Lake Shore Drive,
or fire, or paddling a boat.

The wood is released from me,
and I don’t
cry, but place my mouth
over the cut; feeling
foreign, feeling like the hand
of a bird.

I am not patient. My father
whispers in a clatter of silver.
I become an eagle,
my father, preening my wings.


I find a spot in my kitchen
that I do not love.

There, I peel a sweet potato.
I smash garlic into guts.
I cut my thumb and stuff it,
singing, into my mouth.

Next, I dismember an animal.
I relieve it of its skeleton,
its dense assemblage.

It’s sorcery: parts
and bones and flesh and
onion skins—brown moons,
coalesce into broth,
into red-
lipped harvest.

The unused, the castoff
roots, the dirt licked husks.
In the stained core of the bird
hides the deep, lush savor.

When I boil milk,
the kitchen smells like my mother.
When oil pops and blisters
my skin, I become a blue plate.

I stop sharpening my knives.
I collect these ruins like gold,
roast them ‘til honeyed.

My kitchen is a simmering
fill, and enough.
A cycle of ashes.


Sara Ryan is a first-year poetry MFA candidate at Northern Michigan University and an associate editor of poetry for Passages North. Her poetry has been published in Boxcar Poetry Journal, Bear Review, and various teaching anthologies, and is also forthcoming from Jai-Alai Magazine. She has finally returned to the Midwest from a four year hiatus in South Florida. Everything is new again.