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Jasmine V. Bailey

After Ryokan

Very little wood left
but much more winter—
snow falls in a hush
and trees still damaged
from the last storm wear it.

Even now, as my life stirs
beneath me like a root,
as the beloved fills
the world like a curved screen—
your embers,

quiet. I correct the child
who rushes for water
or yesterday’s paper. My house
has room for everyone
as they are.


Hiking the Lake Placid Trail

I was low many times
and I drank the groundwater,

washing my hair
morning and night,
swimming to islands of duck nests.

I wept bitterly at estate sales,
haggling over a nice lamp,
cursing

my own frivolity.
It’s all a bunch of junk.
I know a little more than I used to

and I still don’t care if you turn out to be
a common thief.


Preparing to Leave Virginia

Some things I’ve known so long
I no longer remember learning them:

lettuce, vinegar and oil make salad.
The Serengeti is in Africa.
Pussy willows are first in spring.

I dream I walk reciting things I know
and deer begin foraging in the clearing.

I mistook their footfall for my neighbor.

They look at me a long time,
being poor judges of danger.

Sometimes what I know is no longer true
and there’s no way to tell when

the truth changed or why an airplane
high enough can be the sound of crocuses.

No one should expect to get over
blue mountains.


Jasmine V. Bailey's chapbook, Sleep and What Precedes It, won the Longleaf Press 2009 Chapbook prize and her book-length manuscript, Alexandria, is forthcoming from Carnegie Mellon. She is web editor for 32 Poems.