Cheryl Dumesnil


In the dream, I gave
birth to a baby girl,
small as the palm  

of my hand, translucent
skin stretched over
tiny bones. Her hip

blades, the nodules of her
spine—they reminded me
of the day my mother sliced

a cooked chicken breast
open, revealing a dark
architecture of vertebrae 

and ribs, the day I stopped
eating meat. Sparrow,
this baby’s bones

tasted like starvation.
Sparrow, this baby's
name was Delight.

Was it The Sparrow & the Egg
or The Sparrow & the Twig
the name of the café in the dream? 

Sparrow: spirit, bird, arrow.

Twig: what’s gripped before flying.

Egg: what’s held in the body, and then—



Mounds of books, double bagged and waiting
in the hallway, your favorites among them.

Trash bags engorged with clothes, even
the beaded cardigan your grandmother wore

on her honeymoon then you wore on yours.
Your wedding ring. The dried umbilical stubs—

first born, second born—yes, you saved them,
and now—nudging it all toward the cliff.

How many times are you willing
to let go? Until the last rung slips

from your hand? Until the only thing left
is you who have been here all along? 



Sparrow is

pecking at the sheet
            which is your skin

draped over the bars of her cage
            which are your ribs

When I wake I feel her
stuck and fluttering

under my left breast



In the dream, weeding the garden—

the tug and snap of roots,
the clover and the clover and the clover.

Turned earth smells of blood.
The notable absence of worms.

In the dream, the grieving
mother, the abandoned wife

arrive in the manzanita shadow—
their collective, thrumming ache—

and you tell them—How
dare you tell them?—Loss

is not the problem. Loss is
natural. Not every blossom bears fruit.


Let me tell you, she said,
the way you will be living

from this day forward
may have nothing to do

with the way you’ve lived
until now.

                       Are you ready?


The broken marriage
is not the problem.

The lost home
is not the problem.

The dead child—
How dare you say it

is not the problem.
The story: This can't happen

is the problem.
The problem is believing

in anything but
the chemical substrate

of light + bird song + rain


Dear Sparrow,

In the dream she said,
If you leap, the net will appear.

So I launched off the cliff,
and Sparrow,

I haven’t stopped falling.

She kept her promise. Don’t you see?



Atom, atomos
indivisible; that which

cannot be cut.
We thought.

For how long
did we believe

we were whole?



Light + Bird Song + Rain =
we are ever-changing

orbited by

an incomplete number
longing for more.



Black-tailed deer, malachite,
southwesterly breeze.

The up-swell of breath
expanding the robin's chest,

feathers refracting copper
in the morning light.

This, my love, is real:

the single atom buzzing
in the constellation of buzzing

that makes up a twig
or a sparrow or an egg.

back to contents