Mary Kay Rummel

Breathing Gulls

At first I saw only two bodies
white fire against blue.
A cry a shadow over the surf
then more, the air thick with them.
Circling and mocking, they
brushed me with their feathers
until, surprised, I inhaled.

The gulls flew in; I breathed out
trying to expel them.
Some stayed and hung like towels
on my ribs or perched behind my eyes
turning to look out.

Wings in my stomach,
Webbed feet for hands.
Skin going soft.
Voice higher. No song.

You tell me there is no need to see
this world with gull eyes—
what’s there for the taking
what’s dead or dying.

But I say to you,
Beware of what you breathe in
or you too will be terrible
beyond bearing.
Watch for that turn of light
in the corner of your eye.

First Fruit

Not the serpent
but the vine—

the way it curls around her
tendriling toes and fingers

strong around her calf, around her thighs,
as it writhes across her stomach

the newly formed still tender ribcage.
Clusters of dusky luminescence

press close
to her breasts, her arched neck.

She opens her mouth
to the sweetly tantalizing

to bitterness, sour greenness,
to forbidden vermilion,

fermented honey,
over ripe peony, shriveled age.

She tastes them all
and blesses them.

Season of the Swan

The doe hesitates behind trees,
steps into snow filled meadow.
I could take a bucket, fill it
with the tracks of her small hooves.

Touching an oak, I become an oak.
Watching a deer, I become a deer
walking across to the salt lick.
If I watch deer drink,
I am the tang on their tongues.

Once I drank from a clean
northern river, tasting granite,
moss, moose, a trace of rabbit,
grouse, the prints of weasel and quail.
As sun broke over rock
mountains melted and rivered
in my mouth.

You waded up the river,
knew the piney silence
of green forests,
skipped a stone, watched the circles circle
across the surface to the source.

Now we wash our hands,
break the bread
and lift our cups
to the canopy of leaves.

I want to call you,
lick water from your hands
but I can’t say your name.
Reach with me into night.
This space—
I could give you this space.

On the narrow bed I think of our first night.
Beneath your hands, I became a brook,
your tongue on pebbles.
Now we are swans.
We close our eyes and dive.

MKRphotoMary Kay Rummel divides her time between Minneapolis and Ventura, CA, where she teaches part time and has been named the first Poet Laureate of Ventura County. Her seventh book of poetry, The Lifeline Trembles, winner of the 2014 Blue Light Poetry Prize, was published by Blue Light Press of San Francisco.