The Pond + Origins & Forms: Eight Sijos

Sarah Audsley

The Pond

Because I knew better, but wanted to anyway,
because he hesitated ever so slightly when I asked,
because I felt my skin as naked and taut,
because I wanted to feel, because
he told me a secret about himself,
because I didn’t know what else to do
but jump—

            Did I say we held hands? When I dove,
I dove all the way through the sudden
snap of cold liquid filling the hole my body

            Did I tell you there was no moon? Traces
of bone-colored frost at the pond’s edges.
The invisible sheen of ice my head pierced
—mind reaching back. Gasping,
I dreamed this before, heaving, I swear
            I was here before
                        —body in
shock of water, body cold—water
rushing out, blood re-routing back
to the heart’s small caverns
like fluttering wings of moths trapped
between the screen & windowpane on a farm
where I would wander in the fields, hide
among long winding rows of corn…

            Whose hand was it tugging
my body out?
            No farm, no field to roam
just frozen feet, shock of hot shower;
the steam on skin rushes through.
            The runnels of
blood down our bodies, shards
of ice melting. The stitches,
the proof: I’m not
safe. I am solvent.

Origins & Forms: Eight Sijos

after Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello

Math is mostly equations: one plus one, two plus two, plus…
also formulas, so many designed variables—
to keep someone alive, calculate, add & subtract the costs.

What if hands pull down stars, guide them inside the round belly?
What if this is how a spirit dives, twists into a body?
What is built up from bones? Fingernails. Skin. Flesh animated.

Grandmother’s fingers tightened around my bundled form,
(a thing) spitting, begging, for warmth from her hunched over
indecisive back—she knew the math would not compute.

This is where I’ll learn how to cast the rod to find the fish,
or skim the water to chase Jesus bugs, walking on the surface
by some trick of tension, & balanced perfection. Keep count.

What does this form do that others don’t? I’ll force the issue
of Korean poetic form, composing these sijo. In this way,
I’ll be closer to my genetics, my bloodlines—strands fraying.

This is where I’ll learn how to skip stones across how many
lakes? Making circles, again, hearing the sound of stone on water.
Oars cut cleanly through its flat surface—stars, so many stars.

In the heat she’ll fan my round face, place a bottle to my lips
flick flies off my head, & try to conjure up my dead mother’s
face, show me a smile I’ll never remember, nor this thick night.

Always those hands keep plucking stars from the heavens, make
constellations inside bodies, make more mothers. I see that form
& origins are stories—I’m all those mathematical distances.

Sarah Audsley, an adoptee born in South Korea and raised in rural Vermont, has received support for her work from the Rona Jaffe Foundation and residencies from the Vermont Studio Center and the Banff Centre. Her manuscript-in-progress received a 2021 Creation Grant from the Vermont Arts Council. She lives in Johnson, Vermont where she works for Vermont Studio Center. She holds an MFA in poetry from Warren Wilson College’s MFA Program for Writers.

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