Hayden Saunier

Some Nights I Step Through Different Doors

onto different stoops and back porches,
pausing to wave to myself as I clack

slowly by on a train passing
into the outskirts of cities or small towns,

through blank squares of blacktop
or freshly turned fields, and the self

that is moving waves back to the selves
that are stepping down into a snow drift

or high grass or over discarded crack vials
or into a tiny, tilled spice garden vivid

with marigolds, parsley, and mint.
The doors lead me back through the rooms

I once slept in, beds narrow or wide,
windows open to ocean or air shaft, two

rooms on two sides of a high bridge
and one with an ornate and worn-out

unraveling carpet of intertwined ivy and swans
where I told myself lie after lie.

I was here. And then here. And then here,
says the click of the rails, and I’m here,

riding past me and past me, again and again,
as though I’m a singular self, not a blur,

not a story that changes when memory
ticks by like a train in the night

pulling passenger car after car,
with their flickering lights and their shifts

of perspective, an indistinct face
in each small window frame.



I Go for a Walk While My Cat Eats a Mouse

Or a vole. It’s hard to tell which.
But I do know it cannot be saved

though I didn’t observe the exact moment
life left its soft, gray, limp body, but

sometime before the equally soft and gray
short-haired domestic American cat

tossed it high through the bright morning air
of my kitchen, his way of checking

for heartbeat, displaying his skill, and my way
of learning a change has been brought

to the state of my household affairs.
Let’s be clear: I know what comes next.

I’ve heard it and seen it, the snap-crunch
of the delicate bones of the world

in the well-designed jaws of the world
and being both worlds, both the cat and the mouse

(though it’s likely a vole) and because like a god
or a demi-god or simply by being a mind

and a body with two working hands
slipping peas from their pods at a sink

I can exit this scene when the real business
starts. So I pull on my black rubber boots,

walk out through wet grasses, grateful
for rain which has finally come in the night,

storms that have killed some, revived some,
cracked open the lives of some others.

Late June. Wild cherries dangle rain-shiny
from rough-barked old trees. Roses petal-less,

thorny canes bent. Ditches rushing
with runoff, a wide creek conveying what’s dead

to broad rivers downstream. In the pasture,
three willow trees shimmer and sigh.

I return to the kitchen to pick up the carcass,
carry what’s left to the field, where I’ll toss it,

then get back to work. Some days, like this one,
there’s nothing at all to be found. No cat,

not a scrap of the vole. As though neither life
happened. Nor one death. Only morning sun

warming wide empty planks of pine kitchen floor,
a bowl of shelled peas by the door.



Hayden Saunier is the author of four poetry collections and a chapbook and her work has been awarded the Rattle Poetry Prize, Pablo Neruda Prize, and a 2023 Pushcart Prize. Her poems have appeared in Beloit Poetry Journal, 32 Poems, Thrush, Virginia Quarterly Review, Drunken Boat, and Plume, among other journals and featured on The Writers Almanac, Poetry Daily, Verse Daily and National Public Radio. An actor as well as a writer, she is the founder/director of No River Twice, an interactive, audience-driven poetry performance. www.haydensaunier.com