The Brooklyn Rail

DEC 22–JAN 23

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DEC 22–JAN 23 Issue



obviously I am a child of language, for I think I am a child of nature
raised on words I believe I was raised in a green pasture
having ideas about goats, ideas about sheep
yet literally never in my life having been beside a sheep of any color
temperament or texture, sure though of its woolly heft and fecal odor

I think I will lie down in a field with a young man when I am older
I think it’s done side by side and facing fondly
the man puts his hand on the woman’s wimple and she wettens
they both keep their pretty boots on and wind knits them
with petting grasses, makes of them the nest the infant crawls from

surely I’m a city poet for I think it’s done in dusty hay bales
yet have been on field trips and it wasn’t sexy
yet have caught heat loping in the easy business of bigger cities
in the building shadow, in the crooks of simple strangers
feel myself most in heat here in this distance that we cultivate together

breathe the most airy here when I’m alone a whole city by me
keeping loose track of who’s asleep and who’s on running trolleys
if an animal comes near me it’s a metaphor for something
if just perhaps my lack of ishness with a larger nature
I do grieve this green earth I’m told is dying, I do grieve the bird names

flying out of use, do blame the warm cities and bold dollars
those that pay for a room stacked high over the city’s floorboards
stacked above cardboard signs for money or against fascists
not high above the city’s useful streets I slink against a stranger
I am for strangers, nature, myself and strangers


Some friends joined me today
at lunch break at the duck pond
Ah. Your friends are ducks.
Your friendship, bread.
Ah, what is mine. Receptive
listening? Egregious hugs?
An overlapping mucilage
or lightly watered
free-growing frisson? My tendency
to squeal at what you say you
bad beast? How I confess
at the drop of a foot
just how that foot has made me
feel? How I feel all my thoughts
and offer them to you
in handled wads?
Mama said
you are adept
at making friends
in every situation

I make them out of bread.
No but some bakers do.
I build a bear
but that’s no fun
I want the bear to come to me
I want a part
of me I’m not
looking at to lure you

helpless I want not
to be self known just but
brought by love
to light!

Out the duck pond
a lady of the lake
extrudes her arm,
offers this sword

and I say
some of my best friends
unspool gradually!


some things feel like harm
but aren’t

but can be
if identified as such

in fact
all things can be harm
if felt as harm
and identified as harm
and not disidentified

that is
all things
named harm
if allowed to stay thus named

and some harms
left unnamed
of course

or can be largely cured
by naming
as a ham
by salt

some things feel like chicken parm
but aren’t
and cannot be
though named
though felt as chicken parm
cannot be

rename it
be it damage or a sandwich
now ask
is it still harm?
is it still parm?

if it's still parm
then you can eat it all right up
it will not harm you
if it’s hot
it might

touch the parm
is it harmful?

if it is
it’s harm
now wait
now call it warm


yes bite the hand
it should not hold the food
suspended so your throat’s
tight so your neck’s
bent back in feeding

why not place food on your floor periphery
back away and let you eat
food as food

if it needs its palm licked
let it ask for that
offer a palm
not lunch

this is very Diane di Prima don't you think

eat the hand that feeds you
then—what would she say—plant your own kibble


Sophia Dahlin

Sophia Dahlin is a poet in the East Bay, where she leads generative poetry workshops and teaches youth creative writing. With Jacob Kahn, she runs a small chapbook press called Eyelet and a reading series called Islet. Her first book, Natch, came out from City Lights Books in 2020.


The Brooklyn Rail

DEC 22–JAN 23

All Issues