Gillian Cummings

Clouds Guess the Moon’s Retort

Before bed, she whispers prayers
into an alembic: last thimbleful of snow
melted where a dove mourns, blood
off pelt from a new-horn stag marooning
bent grass, wine she wants Jesus not to
have chaliced so no longer stumble and slur
to unbless the thousandfold names for God.
Cucurbit of night. Cucurbit of piled pillows
stitched from bats’ wings. Boil, steam, cool.
She wakes to shadow stalking the promontory
where water pries open the shut eyes of rocks.
Whose cloak billows with such rage of blank sight?
Notice nothing, little heavenling, small hellborn, notice not
how hardness softens by the soft, a rift mends when what’s
                                        unwearing fits unworn.


Ear, Ear, Unasked

Cochlea of the mind, poor snail-shelled
consciousness, too slow and hollow to make
the echoes stop, you of nothing, nowhere-gone,
forever going, without cease of unwilled waves,
without cease of slurs, those incidents of insults
that ring scales to the blurred beat of no timpani,
never but a heat fevering over the hurt, the hurt:
it hears, you hear, all songs ever smugly sung, sung
wrong, all awry in the toiling testament of your
coiled, tapered tubes—stop now, please, poor mind,
rest, the tired girl wants to go home and light candles,
will you let their talking wicks be an almostness of
silence, a prayer of wax spilled in your caverns, your
chambers of fluid-filled, firm-fast lovelessness that won’t,
                                                                      that won’t but give?


Flowers for the Executioner

To God, her heart isn’t good—
she wants morning glories wilting on wire
fences, fades of furrow inthroating weeping blues.
Then branches of bittersweet betokening winter.
Love your enemies, bless them that curse you. She covets
the forest its fringes like feathers, its owl-blooms
to nighten her hair. Do good to them that hate you.
Coaxes marigolds to close their copper pages
in soil’s frosted herbarium, where dreams sleep,
rooting earth with the breath of extinguished stars.
See? God spares no hook on joys. And if there is
one whose voice she hears as a scythe’s swift mowing,
if the pretty-petaled remind her how he razes the ground,
the man who’d turn God’s and her own hand against her—


Gillian Cummings is the author of My Dim Aviary, which was chosen as the winner of the 2015 Hudson Prize from Black Lawrence Press and is forthcoming in November 2016. She has also written three chapbooks, Ophelia (dancing girl press, forthcoming 2016), Petals as an Offering in Darkness (Finishing Line Press, 2014), and Spirits of the Humid Cloud (dancing girl press, 2012). Her poems have appeared in Boulevard, The Cincinnati Review, The Colorado Review, The Crab Orchard Review, The Laurel Review, and in other journals.