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Into the Heart
Painting by Andrew Purchin
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Bri Bruce

At Henry Cowell State Park, Early Winter

In fall,
the Big Leaf maples warm
                    in color,
and in time will let go
their dying leaves.
By December, the ungiving stalks
of the American Sweetgum are bare
                                    and still,
                                    even in wind.

We walk beside the woodyard
late one afternoon,
and my mother says,
      “The leaves are turning
          on the alders,”
                       and nods.

Her skin, the best clock,
           a sundial in the angled light;
I do not know her younger years,
or the likeness of her gait at my age,
but I can recognize crow’s feet
at the edge of her eyes,
the furrowed hands
          that have bathed me,
                       cradled me.

I drop a glove in a puddle of rainwater,
          and bending to remove it,
see the reflection of my mother’s figure
see the levy of years,
the unexpected wither of skin,
          as if waking to see
          that it has snowed


Crossing the Meadow

            May dawn coming—
a thin rain falls. I tread a path
in low marsh grass,
            unsteady in a gust,
wondering if you have forgotten
our nakedness, frantic like children
            in the cold,
the sun rising beyond the dark woods,
the dreams that twist nearer,
the splitting apart of our souls.

I listen to a lark chirrup in the reeds
beside a bay laurel,
flitting—hurried and winded—
above the grass,
trampled and slick with dew
where the deer have bedded down
in the night.

Without dreams,
you feel heat in place of love,
            sun on stone,
            skin on skin.
At the edge of the meadow, I pause
only to think of leaving you.

A jay calls into the stillness of the trees,
a branch snapping from a tall fir,
falling to the ground.
I turn, and walk
into the woods.

I Remember My Great Grandmother

in Sycamore Valley wind,
watching as the gray dust settled.
Squinting in the bright heat,
we are quiet, my father tacit
and enduring beside me
yet seeming bemused, his brow furrows
like a child wondering where we go
when we die—a blackness,
beyond our last moments
like that in which before we are born.

            And again, when older,
looking to the black sky,
standing in the open, searching
beneath Pleiades and Cassiopeia
foolish, pleading, what more?

I saw that the ash was not carried off,
but hung instead
in the summer marsh grass,
on the tall stalks of reeds,
along the edges of a small frog pond,
surface glittered as if a heavy snow had fallen
and lay unmelted.

I was a child then,
cradling an urn in the crook of my arm,
Devil Mountain breaking the east horizon.
I knew about death.

Bri Bruce

Bri Bruce studied post-modern literature and creative writing at the University of California at Santa Cruz, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree. Bruce is currently an Editor and Product Development Manager at Book Hub Inc., a book publishing and distribution company located in the heart of downtown Santa Cruz. Her work reflects a life of living amongst her native California backdrop of towering redwoods and evocative Pacific shoreline. Both her poetry and her photography, has appeared in Celebrate!, The Sun Magazine, Tattoo Highway, Ampersand, Red Fez Entertainment, The Cossack, The Avocet Review, Atom Magazine, and Northwind Magazine. She was nominated for the Ina Coolbrith Memorial Poetry Prize in 2009 as a student of Santa Cruz's first poet laureate, Gary Young. Bruce lives in the Santa Cruz Mountains.


Spring 2012

Vinnie Hansen
Clifford Henderson

Vergere Street
Dena and Becky Taylor

Bri Bruce
SA Smythe
Debra Spencer
J. Zimmerman

Morton Marcus Poetry Runners-Up
Curt Anderson
Catherine Segurson
David Sullivan

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