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C.N.P Poetry 

  • Writer's pictureCathexis Northwest Press

Secrets; Harvest; Foreground

By: Danielle Selber


for my first son

“But what was here BEFORE?”

My poor little theologist, scientist, contrarian

eyes watering at the edges,

asking me of creation and godliness.

“Nothing”, I try to explain,

“chaos and void, which in the Torah means” --

He isn’t having it.

How to describe absentia

so unbounded it grows edges

where the finite is pliant and spry?

That an empty expanse full of nothing but potential

is the very place from which we were born?

“Like a black hole”, I try,

glancing up at his solar system mobile

our fingerprints in cotton candy clay

a chrysalis

bobbing without wind.

“How it’s so deep and black that no one can see inside,”

I conclude. Perplexed, he squints.

Tell it to your children,

the bedtime blessing declares each night

as I tuck my sweet son into dinosaur sheets;

on the doorposts of your home, as you go about your day!

Everywhere, always, for eternity,

the omnipresent command to transmit this unwieldy corpus

not just the brass but the rich satin and lithe tulle

to babble through the untranslatable

to make it look easy

to make it make sense.

“Like atoms”, I grasp.

“How they are a part of you, and me, and that chair,

but we can’t see them

but they make up everything”.

His eyes catch as they scan the room

seeing God for the first time

in his paper airplane, that pile of laundry

deconstructing them into primordial shards

as synapses fire and fuse.


If the earth lies fallow it

isn’t because I didn’t give it enough water

enough sun

enough sustenance.

I gave in faith, on credit, for


With eager hands I took to the ground,

arranged my optimism in

acrobatic cross sections,

plowed blue limbs deep into my dirt,

siphoned veins headlong into overflowing plant beds

so they would never want for anything.

It’s the promise of spring that sustained me.

Like a corpse with a heart ripped clean

I am hallowed out

caked with mineral, oozing dust

hot rich ruby turned leaden syrup

languishing just below ashen skin

suspended in the briny deep.

I counted on the land

to fill the empty places in me

to bloom, against all odds,

amidst plight and famine and drought and storms and a once-in-a-hundred year flood.

I want my bounty now.

If the earth is percolating,

saving its overflow for

next year, seven years, another lifetime,

then earth and sun be damned.

I have no patience for divine design.

The prayer for revealed good comes to mind

as I lob dust heavenward, backwards

as if salt.


a contrapuntal*

I am too plain for rebellion I burst

cold with unease the seams

a soft, plodding knee unraveling

This is me at war

of little use salt-laced sweat

without the trappings of regalia, drenched

I have earned

the meat and brawn or the courage of a thousand

air thick with gunpowder I inhale, I ask for more

this is the best of me

in freefall.

You have no recruits So much to save and

no heroes to pull no rescuers?

How can that be? Leave me to it.

I will question Me and only me

I will unlace

I am no leader just a body

heaving chest gasping breath

encased in king’s armor this throbbing heart

I am unfit, just Blood and veins

reliable, like you say salt and dirt

I am not the one that saves you.

I shiver In sunshine

in cotton frothy air I am sheathed

spooled up in tangles washed with grass and soil

these are the things I have to give to you.


Danielle Selber (she/her) is a matchmaker in Philadelphia, where her masters in Jewish Studies led to her storied profession. She writes about love and other sacred things. Danielle lives in Philadelphia with her partner and their three kids. Though her freelance work is out in the world in many forms, she is unpublished as an individual poet.

*Contrapuntal poetry involves interweaving or combining two or more poems to create a new poem. For this contrapuntal, read the left and right columns independently as individual poems, and then read all the words from left to right, as if the separating white space is not there, to find a third poem.


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