Marion Starling Boyer’s Ice Hours, selected for the 2021 Wheelbarrow Books Poetry Prize, was released in January 2023 from Michigan State University Press. She is author of The Sea Was Never Far, The Clock of the Long Now, and Composing the Rain, winner of Grayson Books’ Chapbook competition. Her work’s been nominated for Pushcarts, the Lenore Marshall Award, and “Best of the Net.” A professor emeritus for Kalamazoo Valley Community College, Boyer conducts workshops for Lit Cleveland and Lit Youngstown. She lives in Twinsburg, which hosts the world record gathering of twins every summer. For more link to www.marionstarlingboyer.com.
People have been swept off this pier and drowned
but I have come to this shore for the hard wind
that flings waves high, smashes them against
the red lighthouse. I clutch my coat at the throat,
bend as the wind tears at my hair.
Once, in the Amazon, far up the Napo River,
my spirit was cleansed by a Kichwa shaman.
I sat, eyes closed, hands in my lap, as he blew
smoke from a fat twist of tobacco held tight in his teeth
and swirled it around my body with a bundle of leaves.
The leaves grazed my hair, my face as he spun
whatever darkness was within me up into the bundle,
like winding silk from the comb-footed spiders.
Then, he padded to his doorway and shook the leaves
out into the jungle like a feather duster. After returning
he patted the air back around my shape and whistled
two notes over and over.
Here, at the lake, warning flags snap, fly rigid.
My eyes water. The wind scours me. Empty swings clang.
French for an irrational impulse to jump from a height.
I jog the track above basketball courts
keeping my distance from the waist-high wall.
The overlook is magnetic. Invisible hands reach
for me. A breath at the ear: Come on. Lean over.
Today, I hear no balls thunk the backboards,
no sneaker squeaks. The gym below is empty
except for a baton twirler. She’s a bright jack
tumbling on the floor. Her baton pops up.
Once, at Niagara Falls, Dad posed me for a photo
at the lip. The glassy water surged over,
down to white billows, urging: Just step in.
The twirler’s baton spins to the ceiling lights.
I slow and watch her whip her body into
a windmill then catch it blind behind her back.
I see too, half her face is burn-scarred.
In Colorado last winter, while my skis dangled
beneath me on the chairlift, I fixed my eyes
on lodgepole pines, gripped the seat. As I brushed
by treetops, snow broke from the branches,
showered down. Wind coaxed: It’s easy. Slip off.
The twirler rehearses elbow rolls, flips the baton
around her neck, tosses it, cartwheels, captures it,
whirls. She trusts herself in ways I haven’t found.
See now—how she flings her body into the world.
I float on my belly in the warm Caribbean,
face beneath the water’s surface,
far from shoreline squeals and splashing,
and enter a quiet world of mustard-colored tube
sponges, lemony elkhorn and green star corals,
folds and grooves of brain coral.
Silverside minnows flick, quick-dart. Vanish.
Blue tangs school through shadows
and shafts of sunlight. A purple sea fan wafts.
My hands smooth through the water
looking bleached, like fleshy sea kelp.
My feet are long. Webbed.
Waves wash me over a sudden ledge. The seafloor drops
to a vast chasm, a void of murky light.
A green sea turtle glides toward me.
Sifting motes. Sound comes only
as reverberations between fugue notes.
Suspended. Something slender, pewter. Glinting. A rifle
with fanged underbite. Barracuda.
I jolt my head through the surface. Daylight screams into my eyes.