Annie Christain is an associate professor of composition and ESOL at SUNY Cobleskill with poems appearing in Seneca Review, Oxford Poetry,The Chariton Review, and The Lifted Brow, among others. She received the grand prize of the 2013 Hart Crane Memorial Poetry Contest, the 2013 Greg Grummer Poetry Award, the 2015 Oakland School of the Arts Enizagam Poetry Award, and the 2015 Neil Shepard Prize in Poetry. Additional honors include her being selected for the Shanghai Swatch Art Peace Hotel Artist Residency and the Arctic Circle Autumn Art and Science Expedition Residency. Tall As You Are Tall Between Them, her first poetry book, will be published in fall 2016 by C&R Press.
The Sect Which Pulls the Sinews: I’ve Seen You Handle Cocoons
Silkworm dung lines my gums for tea;
I clutch menorah for paddle.
Malka, give me mother-strength
to save the scrolls.
I could never lie with Yôhanan
as I lie with women—
our chewing mouthparts,
our tongues just wringed fiber.
My holy sparks dwell in him.
The first time I touched a boy,
I glimpsed pomegranate arils
in the bowl
and felt beetles walk across my chest.
When I crushed them,
a monstrous insect leg broke
forth from my midsection,
ready to strike me at any time —
how I discovered my nature.
With faith, I could have spat into my hand,
clapped, and scored myself with a knife.
Instead, I, the most Chinese of the Chinese Jews,
love Silk Maker Yôhanan,
who sees me as a dybbuk.
It’s true I carve questions onto the bones
of a rooster during Passover
and leave my doorpost bare.
You bring the smell of juniper and ammonia,
he hissed at my belly while breaking his tools.
I burned this foreign body once to please him,
but new and stranger shoots emerged.
I imagine placing his hand there.
There is no Malka,
Just a mother who carved Shalom
onto my infant chest
before drowning herself.
Carry me away, Yôhanan,
if I wind myself up in the floating Torah;
the sign on my hand is twisted bark,
fringe, spooned over pulp.
I’ve seen you handle cocoons.
Pretending to Go and Come from Heaven by Fire
The disk we live on is going up.
My heart opium-dreamed in triangulation
when I first saw you,
so I thought you might feel the same way—
like we are holding the ocean in.
Then despite all available technology
that presents a round Earth,
on Tuesday, your smile displayed our tryst
in the true level of flats.
How foolish you must think I am
since you’re spherical
most other times,
but I know what passed between us.
When your lips move and twist
like ballite churches,
I wonder, could I ever share
a round Earth belief?
Well, I went to the San Bernardino Mountains
and carved: NASA is Babel,
claiming and pretending
to go and come from heaven by fire.
I did that, and then I saw my message
on photos NASA claims are from Mars.
So, no, I could never truly
walk on the slant.
Are you on the side of world conquest
and the sun and moon
not being the same size?
If you don’t share my feelings,
just keep things as if this letter never
happened in your spinning ball world.
There’s only a wall of ice
keeping me from going over the edge