The Brooklyn Rail

JUL-AUG 2019

All Issues
JUL-AUG 2019 Issue



bones golden on the stove to be loved from solid to liquid
imagined little yellow house  steamy pots blue tiles
frantic birds dance fight on a branch to continue

dog pines her claw lines inside the front door for a return
I wear my teeth in my mouth for you  my heart on my heart
the ivy stem attaches to the blinds so they go up together

weed bouquets wind-bent are destined for outdoor tubs
whatever unintended sprout prolific beside the food source
I want the transmission to mend itself in time

mirrors on mirrors on foliage to multiply the day
to sit very still and not go bad

the perfect room: green-blue predominately
magenta flashes and a little three-dimensional cheer
violent how the birds hatch and seeds break the dirt


one word against another
one word word against against another
one word word word against against against another
as we speak in peripherals we order the chaos
trees communicate disease through their root system
against another you can feel the accumulation inevitably
say I believe in the beauty of crystals
say beauty can heal and crystals aren’t magical for that

my sister’s biological sister somewhere is named Crystal
mine a meaning for clear
so that from my sister’s vantage I’m one outcome
comparable the way a life unfolds one way or else another
how film records the sculptor removing
three centimeters from the face
to save the image of the girl child against
a window hanged crystal’s multicolored
light fractals appear flat

shades that skip along the spectrum become a single red
the red is against what we know to be true



magenta glow of deforested timber
red stitches on the inlet
women math with hands to be marked unknown
glass display box well-dusted
silver mixture is an eye trick
two opposites on the wheel cancel
out into muddy gray
gentle how the crow lands next to another crow
eucalyptus branch to palm frond  invasive
invasive out the corner of an eye you
clear cut the upturned creosote roots
a good place to birth
quiet snake among dry sage leaves rattling
their absent water
they named anyone China Mary
so she was China Mary


so late she’s early to the cultural reawakening
rose from the Pacific a beached whale vertebrae
some celestial body celestial is a privileged
word for outside
propped on a dashboard   nonetheless
is three dumb words that cancel
China Mary doesn’t wear a halo
she adorns herself in watermark
dust mote her own hairline
shapely around her skull
how unorthodox what the devout did
photos that don’t exist make a mirror of rock
China Mary doesn’t like how she got here
but she’s here nonetheless in
Sitka Portland San Francisco Tombstone
with brown eyes
green or red depending on you
black eyes in photos she wants
to look at something up close for a lifetime


mail-ordered escapee she sleeps on
a mattress of spruce boughs encaved in canyon wall
makes jook by the cauldron cast iron
her peasant skin an unbelievable flat affect
how they feared her gold projection
the men cut her heels so she couldn’t run away
showed her her worth
was to stop creation of her whole kind
the wet opacity of seal eyes
ambiguous lip curl
black hair turned technicolor in sun
how many squirrels make up her garment
countless she
so large or small we can’t see her
I want you to close your eyes and imagine
that that’s the story
you won’t tell the children you’ll never have
they tried to see through her the way
she used animal oil inflamed to see through dark


nonetheless a family throws factory potato chips
into the sea for a full blown loss whale tour
one color on a screen is comprised of three
magenta is as natural as a purple rose bouquet
on a plastic grocery bag is as natural as China Mary
how to search and research the dark past
in brightly lit scatter
China Mary left me nothing
which is why she’s still here
ignoring me at the checkout counter in my dream
sidestepping my conversation about Alaska
she isn’t my great-grandmother or my mother or me
strangers that year would tell me I looked like someone else


they wheeled out the monitors in rainbows like candy
for our dirt-lined child hands
we learn names for shapes colors numbers
the man who walks to and from the bus perpetually
holding up his pants
the man who bends and stares wide-eyed into the traffic
the emaciated Abraham Lincoln look-alike
dust swirls around pigeon-toed siblings in pairs
a flood to say about their dog who farts
their fathers who will return


when the world broke the world didn’t say
it’s not you it’s me
and that’s how I knew it was me ending
you woke me in your sleep to say
every day every day every day
I wanted to smell like a pine forest
but I smell like gerbil bedding
fixate on CD-ROM reflections on the wall
outside see China Mary transcending
the transcendentalists  a photoshoot
a massacre of images and their copies
a prolonged hand shake with the president
her opacity is blinding the men with her non-halo
fast food cups protect cacti from frost and will
stay in the earth longer than us
I want us to stay like that awhile
watch the compost slide off her bones so gently
she’s not rising or sinking and that’s why they’re afraid


Claire Meuschke

Claire Meuschke is the author of Upend (Noemi Press 2020). She works at Las Milpitas Community Farm in Tucson, AZ and is an assistant poetry editor for DIAGRAM. In the fall, she will begin her time as a Wallace Stegner Fellow where she will continue archival research on San Francisco Chinatown and Alaska Native heritage.


The Brooklyn Rail

JUL-AUG 2019

All Issues