Martha Silano enjoys trail running, hiking, and backpacking through old growth forests, backcountry camping, and trying to figure out which constellation is which. She also loves to try out new recipes and birdwatch by ear. She lives in Seattle with her two kids, the writer Langdon Cook, and their three cats—Nacho, Taco, and Enchilada. Her books include Gravity Assist, Reckless Lovely, and The Little Office of the Immaculate Conception, all from Saturnalia Books. She is also co-author of The Daily Poet: Day-by-Day Prompts for Your Writing Practice. Her work has appeared in Poetry, Paris Review, American Poetry Review, and Best American Poetry 2009, among others. Honors include the James Hearst Poetry Prize, the Robert and Adele Schiff Poetry Prize, and a special mention from the editors of the Pushcart Prize anthology. She teaches at Bellevue College and Seattle’s Hugo House.
with gratitude to Ross Gay
Because I was picking jalapenos,
but now I’m biting into one of Yoshi’s figs.
Because she is motioning me toward a silver bowl
brimming with dozens, saying take.
Because I’m biting into my first fresh fig,
stopping mid-bite, eyeing the small white strands
that might be writhing. Because they are not
maggots, because I am savoring, along with sweet flesh,
the sun, air, and sky. Yoshi in her white capris, her big straw hat.
Because Eddie smothered our Kentucky Blue parking strip
with dirt, built three raised beds, so where we used to mow
we’re growing pumpkins, stalks thick as Jack’s, six green, fuzzy fruits
because honeybees found their way into each starry bloom.
Because my husband can’t keep pace with the fecundity, put up
fifteen pints of Dilly Beans, because the tomato plants are so heavy
with fruit the cages have given way, cannot be righted;
because the snails have finally given up on making fine lace
of our kale, and though the beets did not produce, their tops added zing
to the stir-fry. Because when I posted about it on Facebook,
several friends warned us we’d be robbed. That as of this date,
not a single serrano, eggplant, or carrot has been pilfered. Because a neighbor
stopped by to chat, said squash blossoms are a delicacy,
showed me how to dip them in a mixture of beer and flour,
fry them in oil. Because we’re standing on the porch, biting into sunshine.
I’m a tousled cosmos, a strongly-winded daisy,
a wound-down reef. On the inside
I’m just me: heart beating
like a garbage truck backing up on your street,
an ordinary Wednesday, an odd or even day
in June. What I want is difficult
to pronounce, is something I need to look up,
check the spelling (does it even exist?)
Or the simplest: an apple,
a small white bowl of green grapes, a mask that fits.
Two days before she died, my mother told me:
of all my births, yours was the easiest;
of all my births, yours was the one that did not
almost kill me. Two days before she died,
how did I let her hang up the phone
without telling me everything? Each day I wake up
wanting to ask her one last question, which bird
landed in her plum tree—
catbird, thrasher? Both male and female cardinals?
House finch, mockingbird, Carolina wren.
On the outside, a tornado’s passes
through my hair. On the inside, I incline toward the bird
with the thinnest whistle. Daily I reach for my phone
to ask her for her recipe for perogies.
Every day the daisy loses another petal, another bract. On death
I’m no expert. On death, I know less than the scale
that gives it a negative infinity.