Brianna Noll

The Lapsed Catholic Imagination

In the summer of science, we sloughed
off skin toughened by snow and icy winds
and cultivated in the abandoned wardrobe
of our minds an anthology of small boxes
organized by type—nests and shells
or the cottage heart—until we’d built
a hierarchy of images dedicated to
the make-believe sky. Catching us
examining the dialectics of full and empty,
the preacher did not smile as he sat beside
us on a tuft of grass. May God help you!
Death was coming to him legitimately
as it would never come for us, blasphemous
as we are, building festival after festival
in our minds, his definition of teleology
so different than ours. We’re always asking
what purpose a thing serves, but also how
to distinguish manna from mammon
in a world like ours. One box holds
a taxonomy of feathers, for us a font
for literature of depth—for him,
an ornithologist’s trifle.

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In Widows’ Weeds for Lost Arcadia

The world was born perfect
and sustained itself an idyll
green and benevolent until
some date in our lifetimes
we have yet to agree upon.
From early childhood, the path
rippled behind us as water
in the wake of a boat. Once
we learned math was a kind
of mowing, we began to remember
the lost pastures of our youth
and the labor of care, though we
ourselves were too tiny to tally-
clock anything but our scavenging.
None of us was born a lady, nor
were we free agents—a dark
combination of limits—
but we had intellect and virtue,
and we invented a whistled language
with which to speak with wolves
and squirrels alike. We faced no
opposition then; no fences or acid
rain kept us out or in. What monstrosity
came to alter the land? We go mad
inside turning the furniture, and there
is yet no answer in the backward-
looking looking-glass. It’s blinding
to look ahead. Arctic plants, long-
frozen by glaciers, have returned
with the great thaw, so we have hope.
This is how we broker truth with the past.

 


Brianna Noll’s first book, The Price of Scarlet, was the inaugural poetry selection for the University Press of Kentucky’s New Poetry and Prose Series, and is forthcoming in Spring 2017. She is a Postdoctoral Fellow in Teaching and Mentoring in the Honors College at UIC, and she serves as Poetry Editor of The Account, which she helped found. Her poems have recently appeared in The Georgia Review, Passages North, Puerto del Sol, Hunger Mountain, and the Kenyon Review Online.