C.N.P Poetry 

  • Cathexis Northwest Press

sometimes the universe asks this of you; you are everything around the bird that i am

By: C. Henry Smith


sometimes the universe asks this of you

after Hailey Leithauser



Sometimes supplication. Sometimes a long fast.

Sometimes a hard gaze at the old bruise horizon.

Sometimes an ark and two of every kind.

But sometimes only a quorum.


Sometimes sandals and a robe.

Sometimes everyone you love.

Sometimes a vade mecum, a cane

made from the sweetgum tree.


Sometimes cubits, cubits, cubits.

The length of an unusual grief.

Sometimes the names of species

fallen overboard in your sleep.


Sometimes herringbone chains

coiled tight as snakes. Sometime

predators kept away from their prey.

Sometimes sailing a long recital of violence.


Sometimes one minute, then sixty thousand more.

Sometimes failing your way to the shore.

Sometimes a harbor hymn’s endless refrain,

descant floating as those in a drowned city.


But sometimes, in return, joy, a taste of dry land,

a sky the color of new covenants to keep.

Sometimes the sound of a homecoming dove.

And sometimes nothing, not one thing at all.





you are everything around the bird that i am


Tell me what you see from within

the boreal forest of you.

My nest is nearby,

unbalanced with eggs.

They contain soft parts of you.

When I feed my hatchlings,

their chirrs and trills,

those are also you.

Explain yourself,

long mystery of empty space

above a wing rising.

Your vacuum lift

pulls me far from the ground

where you are sick

with seed and grain.

I dig into you, dine,

that the starvation you are

stays far away.


You are the fixed knowing

of migratory patterns and death,

the latter of which

you are most perfectly.

The red fox, the snake,

the pitcher plant, the lynx.

You, unnatural predator too.

The powerline, the pesticide,

the plane engine, the pane.

You are always the speed at which I’m flying,

always the house and sound

my toy vertebrae make

when I fly headfirst into you.





C. Henry Smith makes poems in Oregon. His work has appeared in Jabberwock Review, River River, Gravitas, DMQ Review, Peach Velvet Mag, Ode to the City, and others. He is a co-founder of The Calamity, a former resident at Chicago Art Department, and an MFA Poetry student at Oregon State University. @chenrysmith

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