Matthew Shenoda


Chained to an ancient idea
she took the tool into her hand 
and began her meticulous labor. 

To shape a thing
according to the colors
in one’s head.

We give without asking 
for return.

The way a mother might
braid her child’s hair
thinking of vines,
of her childhood home,
the plant she can no longer name.

And like plow to earth
a mouth-full of singing
and the bird floating in the tree
eyes fixed on the pistil of the bloom.

She can see the way the bird
looks sharply
the way her own body
sinks into the earth 
with a certain kind of pain
as if the soil were made
from fragments of home.

To say that this is timeless
is not to understand
the way time is both fixed
and ever-present.

She is a mirror of herself
hunched in a furrow of forgetfulness
traded on the land by sweat and burn.

Forget me, she says,
forget that my body ever rose on this earth.
But the bird in the tree keeps peering,
keeps seeing,
keeps tipping its wings in a distant direction

As if there and here
were always the same,
as if one blanket could cover
the beds of millions.

Matthew Shenoda is a writer and professor whose poems and essays have appeared in a variety of newspapers, journals, radio programs and anthologies. He has been twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize and his work has been supported by the California Arts Council and the Lannan Foundation among others.