Rumpus Original Poetry: Three Poems by Christine Gosnay





The Cross

I’m coming down from the summit,
I forget why,
toward the bay crescent

and I can see the marine layer
burning off through a slick part
in the forest.

Sports cars stuffed with boys
snake down the highway,
looking for temporary brides.

I don’t remember
what it’s like to bare my legs
in the sun for someone else.

Foolish girls I almost
forgot nibbling their fingers
in the backseat,

what is it like to feel
no shame at all
in the skin?

No memory of it
but look,
the beach is even older,

with sun on every possible side.
And in the cold grotto
to bend over, only fish.


Morning Prayer

There is shapeliness in faith,
when the sun goes down and the quiet moans
a psalm against its offices.

In the balm last night,
sapphire late, came
the earliest chorus frogs,

unless they sooner sang complines
in sugared time I slept.
A doubt can repair itself, infinitely.

Mornings I repeat in early coming
to this park, fetching the lake
to its utmost line.

Past the plastic sheeting
that makes a whipping burnous
on the limb,

the wood ducks lean
their faces close
in a startling omega.

After first heat, the sulfur,
erasing life at every hour.
I won’t compete with memory.

More the lust in lost and in old believing.
The daylight makes a scene too much,
shouting its loud curves.

I listen, filling with rings of glare.
I have no chain to hold it back.
Bright beasts pour from the earth.


Coarse Gold

They have the good sense, these horses,
to stand back-to-flank in the shade.
Every field is a system.

Shivering their hides,
they stare at the way the grass spills
its brocade past the fence, or at nothing.

The Frontier Inn sells cold beer
many miles up the road.
What does it mean to live like this,

expressing nothing that eats the mind?
A few of the trees are splitting
and falling into themselves, widening

the shade. Pitiful to think
whatever came before is gone
in a world this inestimable and wide.

I long to take their heavy faces in my hands
and show them how to turn the future
into the past. I understand nothing

about their eyes, emptier by the moment,
twitching at sightless flies.
Maybe they’ve done already what I would show.

When the field blue-cools at night,
stranger beasts come to see them
moving childlike in the open,

by which time I’ve discarded
the many grand promises I tend
to make myself during the day.


Photograph of Christine Gosnay courtesy of Christine Gosnay.

Christine Gosnay's first book, Even Years (Kent State University Press, 2017), won the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared in Best American Poetry 2020, POETRY, Image Journal, AGNI, The Missouri Review, The Poetry Review, and Ecotone, and has featured on Poetry Daily and Verse Daily. Her chapbook, The Wanderer, was the 2019 title in Beloit Poetry Journal's Chad Walsh Chapbook series. She lives in the Santa Cruz Mountains in California, and has a website at More from this author →