Dover In November


Dear B:       tonight

is a cold cliff I lean over.   Tonight is a fair

blank face.       Think of the way light

lusters an edge of something,       sharpens a stand

of poplars.       Think of the way an animal faces the baying

hound,   the night air

warming around the hound’s tongue,       the rain spraying

surrender into the animal’s fur.       Each year, the land

crushes new parts of itself into the water.       It dreams of the sea’s roar,

of the sea’s mouth,       of the fling

of itself down the sea’s throat.       It dreams that each strand

of seagrass began in a dry meadow             and wonders whether it can begin

there again if it closes its eyes. Dear B: I cannot bring

this night into focus.   I cannot bring myself in.


In a late August garden,       summers ago,

I watched as a thrush brought

a snail down against a rock until its shell broke.       The thrush’s song was a low

tremolo as it dismantled the snail’s softness and we—

me and my two eyes watching—thought

is this what it’s like to be a pebble in the mouth of the sea?


Daybreak:       the sky is faith-

white,   is closed as a cockle shell from cloud-shore

to cloud-shore.       The horizon is a furled

sound that loosens with light until, at noon,   all I hear

is the glare, the waves’ roar

like a razor blade under my tongue   until dusk, when the water’s breath

blurs even the whelk’s spires.   Dear

B: I lied about the cliff.       I am already falling through one world


and into the other.       There is something halfway true

in this.   There is no other world, but I have already fallen into it,       and it seems

clearer. Between my dreams

of the panting hound, of the shell-less snail—             a new

dream: light

on a meadow.       Vast heat.       A pain

white and soft as milk, and plain

as a blade of grass,       as a bird’s flight

drawn against a cloudless night.

Claire Wahmanholm's poems are forthcoming from The Journal, Parcel, The Kenyon Review Online, The Blueshift Journal, BOAAT, and Third Coast, and have been featured on Verse Daily. She is a PhD student at the University of Utah, where she co-edits Quarterly West.