After the Squall

In need of air, she unhinged every
window, revolving ones downstairs,
upstairs skylights, mid-floor French doors,
swept into the house the salt-brine,
the cricket chirp, the osprey whistle,
the sea-current, sound of the Sound,
but had not noticed the basement
bedroom window shielded by blinds,
screen-less. Later that night when they
returned home, lights illuminating
the downstairs hall, insects inhabited
the ground floor rooms. She carried handfuls
of creatures across a River Styx—
the katydids perched on lampshades,
beach tiger beetles shuttling across
floorboards, nursery web spiders splotching
the ceiling—trying to put back
the wild fury she had released.

More by Elise Paschen

Acrobat

The night you were conceived
we balanced underneath a tent,

amazed at the air-marveler,
who, hand-over-hand, seized the stars,

then braved the line to carry home
a big-top souvenir umbrella.

Earth-bound a year, you dare
gravity, sliding from the couch

to table. Mornings, on tiptoe, 
stretching fingers, you grab 

Saturn, Venus and the moons 
raining down from the sky of ceiling.

Division Street

                         ". . . Prayer book and Mother, shot themselves last Sunday."
                                        Gwendolyn Brooks


The spire of Holy Name Cathedral rose like a prayer
above Chicago Avenue. I thumbed a leather-bound book
in catechism class, recited the Hail Mary. Fire and
devils blazed at night. The nuns told my mother
I had a calling. On Scott Street a man lay shot
dead in our alley. It was the Gold Coast.  They prided themselves
on sidewalks safe as shrines. I questioned God, the last
to leave the room. Riots flared in Cabrini-Green that Sunday.

Aerial, Wild Pine

A flare of russet,
green fronds, surprise
of flush against
the bare grey cypress
in winter woods.

Cardinal wild pine,
quill-leaf airplant
or dog-drink-water.
Spikes of bright bloom–
exotic plumage.

How they contour
against the trunk.
I miss that closeness
against my skin,
milky expression.

Before they latched,
their grief revealed
in such a flash.
Seekers of light,
poised acrobats.

Over the wetlands
a snail kite skims
tallgrass, then swoops
to scoop the apple
snail in curved bill.

The provenance
of names, of raptor
and prey, the beak,
like a trap door,
unhinging flesh.

The way two beings
create a space
for one another—
the bud to branch,
tongue against nipple.

Related Poems

The Thousand Somethings of Someone

Could have been
otherwise and 
birdsong make us 
nauseous. And
gigantic roiling sunsets
give us vertigo. The
world of flowers is
for insects, not 
us. But tonic
is durance among.