the sky is precisely you: the ribs
of a starved boy.
the sky is a burial for all water
and when we searched for drowned cattle
we looked above. we looked,
scarcely seeing, as one-eyed dogs.
the childhood cattle never drowned:
the river drowned in them.
still, the sky is precisely you, the sky
is your mouth haunting my mouth.
hear the old animal bending
to eat the river’s mouldered water lilies--
I have also eaten out of the bowl
of such loneliness: wild strawberries
among weed-eaten graves. you do not reply
for you are already in a house of ferns
and the river flows more quietly.
barnacles blanket crystallized skulls
or stones. the sky opens again
and it is precisely you:
a torn photograph of your shoulder blade.
and the cattle below and above,
and the riverlight flowing into
and out of their bodies.
awakening, I find only the sun,
an animal frozen in a winter cloud.
outside, a small boy looks
to a seagull crying on a chimney.
he could be a man but as he looks
to a seagull in a city of seagulls
he is a child. a woman walks
so slowly, as if her body
held the weight of war letters.
you know nights are unkind
even if lit by the moon’s candelabra
so I hide the scraps of paper
saying six cygnets were fed to death
by good-hearted citizens. alone,
I remember two village boys entering
my home, scattering berries
on the floor, crushing them. alone,
I wonder what evokes the cruelty of boys.
the cries of the seagulls stir you,
the birthmarks on your back
trembling with sensuality.
on the table, beside us,
the wilted necks of dry poppies.
Triin Paja lives in rural Estonia. Her poetry has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Portland Review, Pleiades, Cincinnati Review, and Room, among others. She is the author of two poetry collections in Estonian, Nõges (Värske Raamat, 2018) and Ürglind (Tuum, forthcoming) and has won The Betti Alver Literary Award and The Juhan Liiv Prize for Poetry. Her poetry in English has been nominated for a Pushcart, Bettering American Poetry, Best of the Net, Best New Poets, and the Rhysling Award.