A Complicated Mirroring

In a house governed by leather books,
        wing-backed chairs,
                    and whiskey hours,
              the girl born in rose light
knows the motherbody sapling lithe
        was likely cinched and draped
                    to bear the weight
              of the portrait frame.
What long-dead carpenter’s hand
        carved curves into soft wood
                    and applied
              the silken stain?
Even he would have known
        to teach his daughters the art
                    of downcast glances.
              A woman’s neck exposed,
lamp-lit unmarred skin,
        a lure to draw the suitors in.
                    But nature lectures
              just beyond the house’s
sturdy door, rambles on
        regarding predators, the art
                    of soft stalking.
              The girl prefers
her shorter, stocky body made near invisible
        by throwing off the belt
                    and clinging fabrics,
              by refusing to bow her head.

Gravitational Forces

The boy born in the shadow
         of a compass rose knows
      no need for landmarks
                         or starlight
              to find true north.
Set adrift in an autumn field
         he navigates
    the most efficient route home,
collecting broken
              moth wings,
                   black-tipped feathers,
      and hardened bobcat scat,
treasures he will show
                   his pacing mother
    who worries time, her mind
                         a minute hand
              sweeping across
the broad swath of abandoned days.
      Together, they measure and weigh
                   what specimens
    the boy captures, make marks
in foreign script,
              their private catalog,
      numbering what now resides
                         in the battered
metal cases the fatherbody
                   emptied and left behind.

Parts Undiscovered

Girls born to wander
                    know the thrill
         of unveiled treasure,
               the hoards of golden thread,
silver wound around
                    the next spool.
         They embrace the lacquered box
               and run,
let the scuffed compass
         from its braided cord,
               convince reluctant fathers
to reveal the codes
                    in faded script.
         The globe spins
               on their command.
When the world
                    would weigh them down
         with time’s demands
               these girls slip into the dark forest
trail the bobcat
                    to its den,
         a place to offer up the pretty baubles,
               a place to settle in.

When the Border is a River Changing Course

The woman born of wheat
                 and the brown thrasher’s wing
         perches windward, rears
back and lets each gust catch
                 the hem of jacket, skirt, and scarf.
         From the concrete pillars
of a crumbling bridge,
                        the world is a space
         swept free. At night, she has rested
her palm against its curve,
                 the heirloom globe all cool
         promise, separation marked
in sure and steady lines.
                 behind the woman
a car idles, a decision left unmade,
         but for now the wind
                 has carried that impatient
thrum downstream.
~ ~ ~
Sandy Longhorn is the 2016 recipient of the Porter Fund Literary Prize and the author of three books of poetry. The Alchemy of My Mortal Form, her latest book, won the 2014 Louise Bogan Award from Trio House Press. Her other books are The Girlhood Book of Prairie Myths and Blood Almanac. Her poems have appeared in The Cincinnati Review, diode, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Hotel Amerika, The Southeast Review, Tupelo Quarterly, and in many more literary journals and anthologies. Longhorn teaches in the Arkansas Writers MFA program at the University of Central Arkansas, where she directs The C.D. Wright Women Writers Conference. In addition, she can be found online at SandyLonghorn.com