Poetry Suite by Becky Lee

Editor Sam Preminger, Poetry, August 11th, 2020

"I cannot be silent in the silence."

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Poetry by Becky Lee

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For the Birds

A scrub jay stood perched atop a very tall tree.
How still it was! like a pretty figurine—
perhaps like a Christmas star—nothing fancy
but somehow noticeable in the afternoon light.
I thought to it: Hello, blue bird! but it was not
the bluebird of hope or a harbinger of good joy.
It was just the western scrub, with an unimpressive song,
likely to steal from or bury its loot in my garden.

One time I saw a hawk fly in four circles
across the sky, while I sat in my backyard
contemplating love at midlife or something
not worth thinking about at all.
It swirled high in the air once, slow and deliberate.
I wondered if it saw something
dead on the ground. Circling
the second time, it flew a little lower.
Did you spot your prey? Soaring,
on its third spiral, the hawk seemed closer,
—its wingspan measurable now.
Have you come for me?
On its final round, it took a wider girth,
then disappeared beyond the rooftop.
It was off somewhere.
Please come back, I spoke my thought out loud.

I remember spiraling, high above
Oregon farm fields. A stuntman wanted to show me
parachuting tricks, pulling on strings,
so we dipped one way then the next.
I imagined this is what it would feel like
to dip my wings. We sailed through the air
counterclockwise,
then clockwise. I laughed
falling slowly.
I was so close to flying then,
so close to the birds. 

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Picture Perfect

The air between us is clear
      —weightless
moving effortlessly in
      and out of our bodies.
Inhaling what was lost now found again.
      Exhaling false declarations.
The night air we breathe becomes
      easy, promising
an endless life of fearless loving.

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Instrument

My violin has one broken string
that has not been fixed
in seven years. I fear
turning the peg too much, snapping
the metal cord, slicing open a finger
or my eye. I have lost my sense
to gauge the tipping point
of perfectly tuned tension.

I have never met a recluse
spider, a fiddle-back,
but I think every spider I meet
is the very one I should fear.
If I am bit, I hope
it is a kiss on my fingertip,
and the venom sets my gut afire,
turning me into a spider woman who spins
silk strings for my violin—
tensile strength capable of capturing
the most delicate of sounds,
withstanding the harshest of vibrations—
making me unbreakable,
perfectly attuned
and fearsome,
in any discordant tension.

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Snapshots

“The brain tells me to think,” the child said. And so, I think:

      —Even the blackberry vines in the sunlight are enticing.
          I must cut down the shoots before the thorns hit the ground, consuming my garden.

      —The trees along the ridgeline, on the coastal mountaintops, stand
          guard like ancestors keeping watch.

      —Ruralistic is a word/is not a word, I think.

      —Copper red vermilion shoreline.

      —Crepuscular light. I am obsessed with crepuscular light because if light can be
          broken, light can be touched. I dream of touching light.

      —Cutting through air —plane engines.

      —A tiny pink feather clinging to a tweed lapel.

      —I once read words in a dream. The Internet says we cannot read in our
          dreams, but I see the words and remember.

      —Anger along the left side of the body. When the body stops
          remembering, the brain tells me to think.

      —Touching the blank scar on a tree, I think someone will inscribe a secret, a declaration,
          a confession, a love poem into a slice of cut-out bark and fuse the words back over
          the scar, and no one will know but the woodcutter and the tree.

      —The stranger in the dream offers no words. Words littered through white space.

      —A touch on the hip. Uncertain if a pain is something new and physical or old and
          remembered. An accidental bruise, the betrayal of an aging body, or heartbreaks
          retriggered. The pain the body carries without knowing how one is unlike the other
          but so much the same.

The brain records silent snapshots and dreams, musings
of the brain and heart, science and language. I think:
the brain tells me to speak what I see.
I cannot be silent in the silence.

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Sometimes the Body

sometimes the body breaks:
crackling bones
ruptured veins

sometimes the body breaks
                                    free:

        enlarged
        bruised
        hearts
                      cut open

sometimes the body breaks
                                         open

& knows
love

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Header image courtesy of Jay Riggio. To view his artist feature, go here.

Becky Lee is a queer Asian American writer and New York City native who, having lived in the Pacific Northwest for the past 10 years, now calls Portland, Oregon home. Becky is also a public high school English Language Arts teacher and social justice educator. Her poetry has appeared in Rise Up ReviewCold Mountain Review, and Exposition Review’s Flash 405 Legacy Issue.

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Sam Preminger

Sam Preminger is a Portland-based poet. Their work has appeared throughout various publications and they hold an MFA from Pacific University.