Christianne Balk poems

Christianne Balk(1953)
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Departure

- by Christianne Balk 35

Thousands of tiny
fists tamping the surface of the lake
flowing like a wide
river gone crazy, southeast, westnorth
letting the wind push
it around in its bed and the boat
hull hugging the shore.
What else can she do? Even the trees
agree, shaking
their crowns, throwing down their leaves as if
she were their only
child. Caught cold-footed in Magnuson
grass, trying to cut
free of the creosote-soaked pilings sunk
deep in the shallow
mud holding the water, holding her
wake for a moment,
furrow folding back over into
confusion. Cascade
gray crosscurrents! Sharp switching eddies!
Unreliable
shoals! Let the cloth argue with itself,
gasping like a child
with the air knocked out and the wind
socking the center.
Let the sail, shot-silk green and white, now
snapping, billowing
slowly draw her away from this beach
marked with broken glass, rocks
as smooth as plovers' eggs, and small
stones splashed iron red
and orange like the sky breaking open.
Let the windows ignite
flickering copper on the other side.
Let the water be
disked with silver from here to there
churning as if roiled
by the flanks of a great, gentle fish.

Lauds for St. Germaine Cousin (1579-1601)

- by Christianne Balk 30

Blessed is the One who lifts the slow sun
above this morning's raw orange edge,
who moves the ewe to nudge her birth-
stunned lamb into the flock's heat, who
leads the hen to steer her keets as soon as
they can walk into the insect-
filled, high grass, guides the owl to tear fresh
pigeon into pieces small enough
to fill the owlet's gaping bill,
and prompts the rat to lick the pup
that's not her own and take it to her side,
directs the swan to trumpet,
bob her head, and raise her wings, quivering

into a living canopy
above the nest built without hands
by those who have no hands, just wings,
wings that cannot weave but must and somehow
do, just as I twist thread from the distaff's
wild wether wool, skirted, sorted, scoured,
and drawn into bumps of roving
held awry until the sun lifts
high enough to warm these slow fingers
spinning fast and faster, dropping
the spindle like a top, whorling
fibers clockwise to pull the yarn
taut and straight, plying many into one.
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