Sherwin Bitsui

Blankets of Bark

Point north, north where they walk

in long blankets of curled bark,

dividing a line in the sand,

smelling like cracked shell,

desert wind, river where they left you

calling wolves from the hills,

            a list of names

growling from within the whirlwind.


Woman from the north,

lost sister who clapped at rain clouds.

We were once there

holding lightning bolts

above the heads of sleeping snakes.


Woman, sister, the cave wants our skin back,

it wants to shake our legs free from salt

and untwist our hair into strands of yarn

pulled rootless from the pocket of a man

who barks when he is reminded of the setting sun.


At 5 A.M. crickets gather in the doorway,

each of them a handful of smoke,

crawling to the house of a sleeping woman,

breaking rocks on the thigh of man stretching,

ordering us to drop coins into her shadow,

saying, “There, that is where we were born.”


Born with leaves under our coats,

two years of solitude,

the sky never sailed from us,

we rowed toward it,

only to find a shell,

            a house,

                     and a weeping woman.



“Blankets of Bark” is from Shapeshift (University of Arizona Press, 2003).