Sestina After Bishop and Rich


You were the name before the name:
let me count the ways, the means,
the footnotes to footnotes to a new
common language dreamed not by our hands
but through a window made of voice
and air, time-bound but swept
up in the night’s order, swept
in like the ocean, which is named
for a man whose tears and voice
made rivers. When I say this, what I mean
is: take your strong capable hands
and build for now a new
and quiet place. Maybe we knew
we were orphans, maybe you swept
by me before I could look at your hands—
maybe I can draw you a house named
Now and tie it to a string. What would it mean
to see your face when I hear your voice,
and how shall I compare? Yes, vox
clamantis in deserto
, but when I feel so new
I forget all that wilderness means
except how it can sweep
through me like your name.
Today there is not enough—your hands
could trace an alphabet, my hands
could answer, your voice
in my dream-ear sings my name
up and down, back and forth, new-
found and urgent, swept
up in a great trembling without the means
to meet it. Time arrives where it meant
to; to arrive at your two hands 
is an outcome only now swept
onstage, warming up with a voice
reaching inside out, old and new
across ancient rivers named
by the first to see them—named,
like anything beautiful and new,
for the first bold truth to wrap itself in voice.

Origin Story


When you were a girl, you walked
barefoot and alone to your grandma’s
because this was the seventies, though
even then, some things stayed
the same: How you stopped
at the neighbor’s yard sale, eyeing
a box of tarnished silverware—
the completeness of the neat set
like a little family—and later,
sitting at your own mother’s table,
how you held one of her teaspoons
up to the kitchen light as though
you could scoop up silence
and serve it on a plate: blameless
but not accidental, random but not
chance. In this mythology, I think
Fate is a middle-aged mother
sitting on her bedroom carpet
eating a non-fat Fudgsicle.
Push open the door and see her there.
Sing her this lullabye:
A vase on the piano and flowers
in the vase. Delicately arranged.

Alyse Knorr is an assistant professor of English at Regis University and co-editor of Switchback Books. She is the author of the poetry collections Mega-City Redux (winner of the Green Mountains Review Poetry Prize), Copper Mother, and Annotated Glass, as well as the non-fiction book Super Mario Bros. 3 and three poetry chapbooks. Her work has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Denver Quarterly, Columbia Poetry Review, The Greensboro Review, and ZYZZYVA, among others.