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C.N.P Poetry 

  • Writer's pictureCathexis Northwest Press


By: Lyall Harris

for Savia

I didn’t know it would be this season

or that I would be standing on the shore

while she wandered into the surf

or that I’d be alone but so full

of the self I was meant to be

or that she would be a young woman

by then

or that we would have learned to see

each other

or that she would begin to trust

what I never knew until now

what it is to be enough

I knew and didn’t know

how we worshiped

the bone of his own cage

and believed it made ours

(to say nothing of tree snake apple)

or that this beautiful unfolding

as limitless as space

as natural as birth

was the very thing we were taught

to fear most

I didn’t know when she resurfaced

that afternoon in July

the light on the water

would glitter like gemstones


Writer-visual artist Lyall Harris’ poetry and prose have appeared in The Minnesota Review, The New Guard, The Raw Art Review, The Dewdrop and elsewhere, and her creative nonfiction has been featured in The Montréal Review. Her poetry has been a finalist in numerous contests and was recently shortlisted for the 2020 Anne Sexton Poetry Prize (Eyewear Publishing) and received First Runner-up for the 2020 Doug Draime Prize for Poetry (RAR). Harris’ paintings have been widely exhibited and recognized with awards, including The George Hitchcock Prize from the National Academy Museum (NYC), and her book art is held in over fifty Special Collection libraries, such as those at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Yale and Stanford. She holds an MFA in Book Art and Creative Writing from Mills College and a BA in Art History from Northwestern University.

"Baptism, dedicated to my daughter, is one of the final poems written for a new collection about hidden abuse and what it takes to break free. (The manuscript’s working title is “Enough.”)

When I broke free of this abuse, I also set my teenaged daughters free of our circumstances. Of course, their path, like their experience of the abuse, is their own. I can offer support, love them unconditionally, and hold the complex truth of our family life, but I cannot heal them.

Baptism reveals the deeply ingrained gender inculcation at work in our Judeo-Christian culture as well as the secular, even more pervasive, message about and drive to compensate for an internal state of 'not enoughness.' Coming into my own wholeness, which also implies self-forgiveness as it relates to my inability to understand the dysfunction of our family system and thus my inability to adequately protect my daughters, ultimately results in, I believe, also a service to my daughters. The poem speaks for itself in terms of bearing witness to my younger daughter’s own journey and rebirth."


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