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This Time Autumn


Daughter-I did-not-have, come

to the colony collapse

in our backyard—wasps

crawling in slow gold

demented arcs over the hive half-

glued to the branch,

not eating any more, not building

their home.

Move closer—the bewildered wasps don’t break

from their parade….

And there’s the brother-you-did-not-have:

bolting joyfully across

the grass yelling about kites—.

Life there! Life! And craving…

our wasps keep looping, making

nothing of themselves.


…remember tumbling out

in ruddy clots & strings

& rubbery approximations…

This time, last autumn.

A mouth a pinch of dust

could stuff.


Daughter undone. Daughter who wasn’t:

I bank with other

fish, flattening one cheek

against the mud, turning the other

to the glistening air.

My one dark eye

discolors, shrivels to a speck.


Open the cabinet door—no plates, no cups—

but on one shelf: little footsteps in the dust—

a child has walked through hungry—

follow her—

is she in the storeroom beyond the blowing curtain

or in the unlit corner

where piles and piles

of petals

are stacked unevenly—

—turn with me quickly—

is that fish, bird, flower creaking around us?

—keep moving—it’s possible she’s just up



Inside her room the shadows are stuck.

She recites her nightmares

in the half-dark: mother

walking bewildered through the pieces, draped

in a bedsheet,

a mountain

porcupine spitting its tiny arrows black

as rice into my hands—

my grandmother holding an empty tray,

my grandfather slurping his soup.

She opens

the calendar, sees dust

in the boxes, x-marks through everything.


It was hard to be

tender, harder still

to find her mouth, to get her

to speak. As though she were a doll. Easier for me

to dissolve. Poof! Now we’re just the circling

dust. Spinning off—what’s

to trust

but Quiet: here it is in its best

suit. Pacing,

awaiting our arrival, its mouth

full of flowers—

its wedding with Unsayable & Unsaid,

my constant suitors.


I am floating by, cloud for a face, pieces

of child folded into squares inside my body—


my son says I did not hit

I did not bite I did not throw

the boy who did that is far away

in another land I’m a fireman

a working man an artist

it is the other you’re after

that one doesn’t speak your language

that one has a sister


At a particular time the baby ended. You ended.

There was no calendar for it, no mark.

Morning was dark in the hospital parking lot

when they took you—to where? I wish I’d asked. I wish

they’d given me a sack of you—a thumb-sack I could stroke

& carry in my watch-pocket.

When, in the moth-green gown, I looked

up from the strapdown, seconds after being sunk,

I asked: Are you sure she’s dead? If so, can you tell me

why? The staff looked down. They had

no face for it, but the blunt doctor

paused at the door, before walking out.


Once I went mean-mouthed,

spat out: I wouldn’t have had

a her—. Not

in this ring, this pandemonium,

these cutdowns, these pried-open-

by-razors, the flatirons, the dumbing

bells, the straight-bed circus, the parade of flat mirrors,

not a her: fast-ditched, cinched

wrung out, roped.

I was afraid she’d be twinned. Afraid she’d be

mouthless. Afraid she’d not hunger. Afraid she’d

be halved. Afraid I’d tie myself around her, un-

willing to release either of us—


Little girl I could not love

because you ended

before you had a voice or ears to hear me,

I give you this armful of autumn, the flyaway

leaves, tumblerfuls of scarlet, the shimmering

tangerine bouquets in the branches & the cleaning wind

in lieu of the dark tight shoe of the mind, its

useless narrow



She chides me

for calling her little calling her girl

was not even a thumb-whorl I she cries

The leaves this time

last autumn

were bloody streaks of gold

She is the soft part of drapes I am looking through

she is the rain

that lashes away from this lashes at that


Sometimes she is patient—sometimes she hands me

a stack of the day’s sufferings:

a vexation of arrows, a concave sky

& a tray of split violets & the mouth of a river & the blood’s litany,

or she offers me the mirror with its reminders:

my beautiful mercurial children, steady-eyed husband,

a few windows with light, sparrows….

She says she prefers not

to be my wagon

or my weight. She says kindly

I am not to talk to her again.

from Pretty TripwireFind more by Alessandra Lynch at the library

Copyright © 2021 Alessandra Lynch
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, LLC on behalf of Alice James Books.

Published in Alessandra Lynch Poems

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.