Two Poems by Kassandra Montag

A Brief Dialectic in Cobh, Ireland

Knowing not grieving remembers a thousand savage and lonely streets.
William Faulkner, Light in August

Grief is the riverfront
with the long leg
that I have walked
many times,
watching birds and their curious
But knowledge is not that sort
of water.

Two sisters play in the shallows,
away from undercurrents,
their tan skin ripe fruit.

My bones are tired.
I remind myself
to dress in the morning;
I choose solid, quiet

When I enter the flower
garden at home
I set the head
of a magnolia blossom
on the pond’s still surface.

The blossom holds its position,
ivory in the sunlight,
a photograph of a dead face.
I would hang it on my wall
so it could watch everything
and know the stillness—

mornings in the kitchen
when dawn and I do not move,
but breathe into the vague repeating,
the coffee and newspaper.

Moose in Northern Montana

I first see only its haunches, and then
through the leaves, its face blank as a skull.
It does not know time—
how else could it look at me so?
Nothing private in its mind or mine,
our stare an empty glass room, nothing
but its black eyes, flightless ravens,
and its heavy head, still except the jaw
and throat, chewing and swallowing leaves
from the willow that grows
between us.

Its body is an old house
that creaks and stands solitary
in the night, wedged
between the moon and a redwood tree.

If I were to touch its body
I’m certain it would be like stone or water,
some force, some element
I can touch and touch, and still not know.

Below this dirt trail, behind the elderberry
and red-osier dogwood, a river flows.
And if I were to fall among the rocks and water,
the moose would watch, as it does to me now,
those eyes would not blink,
and it would see a sudden death both familiar and distant,
leaf stuck in its throat,
soon washed away.

I have seen death generate movement—
small thrashing fires
lit in votive candles
before the altar.

I am told you run, you attack,
to protect your young. And with the rest
you watch.

About the author

Kassandra Montag has traveled to most of the contiguous United States, studied abroad in Ireland, vacationed on Grand Cayman Island, volunteered in Haiti, vagabonded…

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Issue 20 · May 2014

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