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Annette Sisson

Annette Sisson has poems in numerous literary journals including Nashville Review, Typishly, One, The West Review, HeartWood Literary Magazine, and Sky Island Journal. Her full-length book, Small Fish in High Branches, is forthcoming from Glass Lyre Press (2021); her chapbook, A Casting Off, was published by Finishing Line in 2019. She was named a 2021 Mark Strand Poetry Scholar for the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, a 2020 BOAAT Writing Fellow, and won The Porch Writers’ Collective’s 2019 Poetry Prize.

The Mind’s Ether

Even now, my senses blunder. Is wind
or rain bustling at the window? How

can the ear divide sound? The rise
and fall of my husband’s questions slide

past my ear canal, cochlea sputtering
ciphers to cortex. My voice, my daughter’s,

their timbre as matched as camelia to peony.
Turnip greens pepper the tongue

like arugula, walnut repeats the creamy
pulp of pecan, I taste the earthy

chamber in the beet. Distinctions flatten
in the brain. And my astigmatic vision

fuzzes woodland stumps into resting
deer, turtle to rock. Forest

scuffles as one body, and sun
singes my eyes to darkness. In death

I may float in the mind’s ether, the senses
falling away, lungs slighting

their pattern, breath loosening, thought
rising in the brain, rising into absence.

Prodigal Father

in memory of my first father-in-law

He stopped at every dam from Boise to Spokane,

curved through two-lanes of rock and scorched
dirt. Spirit Lake, Nine Mile,

Grand Coulee, Upriver, the rugged feats

of Big Sky and Great West. He downed
32-ounce beers, reeled into gas stations

for more, wrangled his wife, sparring over

the turns, the fastest route to the next dam.
Still, his voice sweetened as he stared at each

new edifice, rehashing design, construction—

the segment of river, its history, bed, channels,
how its topography must be taken to account.

Too, his kindness: When he spoke of the son

in Spokane, a half-way house, a judge’s grace.
Understand his story, his sorrow. A good boy.

Such pressure. It’s all about scaffolding.

This father, his sons, his beer and smokes,
acres of roiling lake, restrained, like the one

he girded up, held in with deep

footings, story, pylons of grit. His life
a tender architecture of need. That day

we spotted a stray runnel at the Coeur d’Alene.

It slid down the prodigious barrier, darkening
the rifts of baked red clay—not a burst

of rolling force, but a swill, a soft breach.
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