A Sea Change and other poems

A Sea Change and other poems

Six poems by Boston-based Melissa Green, author of three books of poetry, including Magpiety; and two memoirs, under World Poetry/Prose Portfolio, curated by Sudeep Sen 

A Sea Change

The fever of August has stormed itself out.
Bouts of sweat and fury have blistered me weak.
Wrack, rock, seaweed disentangle and tangle the shore. 
Surely I didn’t used to wash my glasses so often. 
Afternoons crumble underfoot like shredded wheat. 
What a genius I have for confusion.

My handwriting belongs to someone else.
Alzheimer-like, crab-wise, I take down this dictation.
A titian-haired cocker spaniel named Lizzie
Dazzles me, never leaving my side. Anxious. A rescue dog.
Dragged back, I don’t know where my home is either.
Mother, you won’t believe how dark the dark is.

St. Francis received the first stigmata.
Mata Hari wore silk and duplicity like mine. 
Mindful of the steps, I write these splintering words 
as swords of light hang from the eaves like ice.
My eyes still know winter when I see it.

Hic Jacet

Hide my grave 
From turncoat grief

Let autumn storm 
My lichened stone

And no one come 
To call me home

Let shadows pass 
And winter’s priest

But no one make 
A chisel’s mark

Nor dates surround 
A hyphen’s rune —

Horizon line 
The country lane

I traveled on
Afraid alone

I moved stone walls 
By granite will

And made the road 
A boulevard

A highway nosed
The wilderness

A thoroughfare
Paved over fear

My loving fed
A silver flood

A river raced 
Where my heart rose

My footsteps drummed 
The stairs of dreams

My whispered tears 
Connected stars

A bridge of words
An ocean wide

My human voice 
Once entered space

A cobbled song
I sang to God


My words perish 
in the reed’s parish.

This beetle’s carapace 
is no surprise.

A Russian doll encloses 
independent clauses,

a blood-embroidered egg 
candling the wounded age.

Remove the tattooed shell, 
reveal what scriveners hold:

a seed, a heart, overfull
of the world since Adam’s fall.


Dolphins fan the selkie’s hair, a nightingale’s tremolo 
turns to amber in which a dragonfly wipes her eye, in which 
Primavera’s maidens gambol —
                                             here’s how I walk with my cane:
on broken concrete, with carious teeth and barking with laughter.                   
Scarified. Shrunken. Childless. Shaking. Cruel.

The Eater of Paper, the Drinker of Ink

With my pen point, I dig up the watermark, a white peony soft on my tongue. 
In that sweet wafer I taste a cluster of birches, cherry, oak. I swallow acres
of forest, seed pods like limpets at my heart.
                                                                 The nib plunges into a black current. 
Its unguent on my lips, I suck down the streets of Evangeline, the drowned parishes
of Katrina, these lines an alphabet drawn from a corpse’s single alchemized hair.


Ballast, all my books, making me earthfast, each a clearing, a glade, a birch     
where goddesses, governesses, girls like me frolic forever. Somewhere between
Graves and Hardy I’d hide, breathless to be read.
                                                                Pages, only panes of glass on loved worlds 
denied me. Touching serifs’ suffering as my own. Fingers on lips, a kiss’ underside. 
On each fly leaf an Em, my mark — a minim, a half-note, a half-life, the fiction of me.

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