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Michael Wasson



After today

you will be different: a god made soft

to never injure itself holds you facedown
to paradise: a myth is told at the end

of autumn when you are naked

with all the lights off & all you remember

is the voice of someone
you’ve forgotten: someone you said

you loved: so you stand here in the dark until
that song of flesh drowns your bones: & stays

like any starved god would: you are then asked
to build a fire: for the fallen snow

is already here in your blood: & you need
to run back through the pines: river swift

& curved into your calves: the limp limbs
of everyone you can no longer save

because you are but a boy: now gather the silent
wood & cut: know that this fire you build

will open its mouth when you want it
to live: to quench & eat: as January arrives

you are born in the cutout tongue of

winter: you are craving light: you crawl

from Father Above & toward the full-

bellied monster of His land & beg

to be spared.





& I said
let there be dark

pouring from between
the teeth. Let there be

an aftertaste in the back
of the throat. Let each locust

leap from the slow light
being dragged over the earth.

Let every angel not named
Michael ask do you not know

the single click in the mouth
is a tear you are

to always live in?
Let the garden
remember fire for it is you

who will dress the wounds
of this place. Let lesser gods

forget you were ever born.
Let light begin &

black out from remembering
flesh as a touch to tell you

the skull once kissed the blood
laced with warmth

& held a body in place years ago.
That silence is forgotten

between each soft blow of the heart
until we finally stop. A name

we never speak anymore. A head
wound by living a life

here. Tonight let me tell you
the human form is meant to be

a beauty I will continue
to ruin.





’éetu: so be it, he says—

& I ignite a flame

striking a wooden match
along the torso of

my god: a face mirroring
a boy afraid of only him-

self: a shadow
spills behind us


like long-standing firs
on the first broken

morning of the new year:
he slides a finger inside

my mouth: a forgotten bird-

song droning louder than

our shivering: my tongue
I feel bruising: his fingertip

somehow a softened pit
of fruit: this sugared

nail: my mouth shut
as I look up to him

in the light: wind
through the trees: wind in

his matted fur: my hair
a forest fire: our faces now

gone—but the taste

of one last chance


to swallow.


-from Swallowed Light  (Copper Canyon Press, 2022), selected by Fall 2022 Guest Editor, Michael Walsh 

Michael Wasson is Nimíipuu from the Nez Perce Reservation in Lenore, Idaho. He earned a BA from Lewis-Clark State College and an MFA from Oregon State University. The author of Swallowed Light (Copper Canyon Press, 2022), Self-Portrait with Smeared Centuries (Éditions des Lisières, 2018), translated by Beatrice Machet, and This American Ghost (YesYes Books, 2017), Wasson is the recipient of a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship, a Native Arts & Cultures Foundation National Artist Fellowship in Literature, the Adrienne Rich Award for Poetry, and others. He currently lives in Japan. 


Victoria Chang


Victoria Chang

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