Self-Portrait Disguised as Stones

Brynn Saito

After Gila River, a site of Japanese American incarceration


      Were I there          under eave and uncrushed

  set in some        dust corner after desert snow --

  Were I a riparian spec

alkaline and present       aventurine redressed

      mountain chip, moss-rose --

                            What could I speak?

    I might have soaked        secret after secret

          seen the spark birthing seed

birthing daughter and sons     their unwired love --

I might have drank joy from the blameless

           seen meeting of the gambler

and survivor of addicts    two laboring landless --

        For years I was restless

              amethyst disguised as ash rock

  freckled, forgotten         noctilucent daikon

           I was afraid of my face


Do you walk through constructed silence
	arousing memory? 
	Do you follow the long-limbed 

beetle around the ancestral mountain
	arresting memory? 	

Of Capricorn and Gemini
of nebula and violin: 
	one daughter of queens wandering creosote. 

Of Milky Way and wonder throne
of swallow tail and milkweed: 
	hearty grass and omen ants gather. 
	Birds trill electronic. 
		A cloudless sulphur catches light.

Let me down slowly.


I was there. I was restless--
	my mind, a body
	my body sweeping life's cells in a single direction
	over Earth's face--
		sea freedom for centuries
		a chemical fist unfolding in the fescue.

Desire did this:
	fertile dust and diatom seas
	forest lung and red rock--
		a roiling grace.

You die. I collapse into the hollow before language:
	knot in your father's throat in Hiroshima
	everlasting rock monument
	writing on the crane's wing
	folded by the dead one 
			under a future sky--


I'm single stone with dual souls:

	two, then three

handfuls of rock-shard under dim
			immense heaven.

One conflict illuminates the other:

	our hexagonal suffering in sky time

our moonstone super enemies.

I'm talking about the garden now:

	how it stared down the wolf-heart, won.

Roots hold onto each other

	uncapsized under summer soil.

Sheer history-- 

		traveling underground eros.

One cross holds the sea-dogs at bay

	the other archives light.

Un-beast me. Pack of dogs
	take my palm. 

	Open me to the secret memory.

Brynn Saito is an assistant professor of English and creative writing at Fresno State. She’s the author of two books of poetry — The Palace of Contemplating Departure and Power Made Us Swoon — and two chapbooks co-written with Traci Brimhall.