Ordinary Animal

When aspens shiver in the dark
I understand myself.
When water tumbles over itself
under starlight, I grow in me

a second wing so I can see her:
sister, small in our father’s garden
taking her time with salted snails
and desert sage. When fog-moon

rises, I want to walk back
into that walled paradise, turn into
the girl I was to tell her a story
in birdsong. I know how

to call out in the marble dawn
like a Steller’s Jay, afraid
of my own longing. I believe
in the river, revising,

and the mountain trickster
with its hidden penstemon, blooming
in the center of a canyon drought.
For her, I’ve learned to bow

without bowing. I hold thistles
in my hips for her, stand still
and strong against the ordinary
animal devouring us both.


Photo used under CC.


About Author


Brynn Saito is a poet, educator, and organizer. She is the author of two books of poetry from Red Hen Press, Power Made Us Swoon (2016) and The Palace of Contemplating Departure (2013), winner of the Benjamin Saltman Award and a finalist for the Northern California Book Award. She also co-authored, with Traci Brimhall, Bright Power, Dark Peace (Diode Editions, 2016). Brynn is a recipient of the Kundiman Poetry Fellowship and a two-time recipient of the California State Library’s Civil Liberties Public Education grant. She co-directs Yonsei Memory Project (YMP) with Fresno artist, farmer, and writer, Nikiko Masumoto; YMP utilizes arts-based inquiry to generate dialogue connecting the WWII incarceration of the Japanese American community with current struggles for justice. Currently, Brynn is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing in the English Department at Fresno State.

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