Matins And Mantras. {poetry}


Lay me down on an unlit pyre,
let smoke sift up

through all my open spaces,
fill me with something burning
until I am only a single-sung note

tearing theater curtains
between the dream and the room

where I write in bone light,
the heater clanging her habit,
pale peignoir ghosting a white wall.



I am the last trick of love,
first of many bandages, forget-me-not dust

glassing a hardwood soon swept.
I am something to brush against, cut into,

lift and cool. Brick by broken brick, I am stacked
into a conglomeration of movable parts

made to walk, carry pitchers, dig holes, sleep and wail.
Science says I am mass,

energy, cells, water, tissue, process/reaction.
Explainable. Perishable.

To birds, a quick-drifting continent. They never land
on my elbows. We sing less alone.

I am a covered wagon in 1852 packed with
wooden crates, fool’s-gold expectations,

what’s in the prospector’s pan, sifted and swirled,
licked clean. I am that rib,

a ship sunk in the Pacific, my eyes hear the tremolo
of salt, taste the grains of after-blue.

To a cave I am an interruption of light, wet hand
warm on a painted horse flank,

Remembered by some, forgotten by my father’s
father, even the compass he used

to survey the Arkansas territory, forgotten,
tentative needle back-stepping the cliff-cuff.

I am in the stones I gather from the Ozarks
cold spring on Mount Tamalpais,

inner-ear shell unearthed from Nicaraguan sand,
I spin, trundle, break against

another barn door. I am the owl sitting Shiva
above someone’s rusted-hinge heart,

the Om-ing bassline just under the frost-hooked
ground. I am listening to the green

inside browning grasses and the fat tree
that apples the ground, leaves

the sky reachable — that child jumping to catch sun
in her flimsy net.

I am that part of you whose shadow lengthens
on a summer sidewalk.

What comes after such small openings
a reusable bag of unsaid words?

What if everyday a new steepled sky, a new
headline to unread?

Can I (is it in me) keep choosing the mosque
I am

round on all edges, soft to touch, full
of whispered prayers?



I do not feel God’s cold shoulder
even here in the belly of a whale gone
white with tidal longing.

In my South Easter is a dozen
deviled eggs on a scalloped platter,

ex-husband hiding their colors under
elephant ears for his wife’s children
to find in a game of hot and cold.

I imagine a purple egg spotted pink
too soon pulled from the vinegar bath
into bricked oxygen.

On a shallow stretch of beach,
moonstones fall between my fingers,
used up star light star bright wishes.

I do not know which is true —
the shell cracks from inside out
or outside forces itself in.

What if we spoke other languages:
the grammar of ovaries,
punctuation of seagulls on crested water?

On this day more questions than cursive
clauses, I feel the possibility
of resurrection because I die

in sparrows, in hearing the silent nun
speak of avocado pears. Daily
I die to memories I want to keep.

Wind chimes outside his bedroom
this always miracle of morning,

eggshell light through thin curtains,
someone’s bride behind a veil,
vespers of wind chimes on my own porch….


LeslieStJohnLeslie St. John is a poet-yogi who uses words and the body to inspire creative expression, physical health, and more self-love. She is the creator of ‘Prose and Poses’, a practice of Yoga and writing to open creative channels, and offers workshops and retreats along the central coast. She received her MFA from Purdue University, where she served as poetry editor for the Sycamore Review. She is the author of ‘Beauty Like a Rope’, a chapbook by Word Palace Press. Her poems have appeared in Teach.Yoga, Apersus Quartery, Cimarron Review, Crab Orchard Review, Florida ReviewIndiana Review, Oxford American, Pinch, and Verse Daily. A 300-hr RYT, she has studied with Tias Little, Noah Maze, and Rocky Heron. She teaches Writing, Romanticism, and Poetry at Cal Poly, where she facilitated the publication of ‘Unveiling Self: A Collection of Student Memoirs’. You can find her writing at a café, hunting vintage shops, or hiking with her dog in San Luis Obispo, CA. You could contact Leslie via her website or Instagram.


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