On Memory: Triptych in Conversation with Yosa Buson

Sarah Yost

I. Early Illuminations

Sparrow singing—
     its tiny mouth

light flashes through glass
moves shapes across her face
pine trees glide past my window
mesmerize as a zoetrope spins

(what did i dream of then?)

crawling into her lap
my face against her cool pricking thigh
her warm hand on my back

peering through the shadow of the porch screen
no gleaming car approaches
bright patch ablaze on the grass
& my young father sits
sunlit from behind the couch
plucking the banjo & laughing

they are children, too
tender & fresh as string beans
delighted with me in that moment
before the clothes are strewn across the carpet
before the crack & crash of fractured light
words rise in my throat
& they’re turning their warmth toward me

the sense i’ve always been here
of course i have
just as the sparrows feel
flitting between branches

II. Break

In the evening, autumn;
      I think only
Of my parents

I have never known a shared loss
to draw us closer.  Each year

the bleached bones of floating trees
soften in the unrelenting river rush.

The splintered twisted dismembered
limbs will not grow back together

in time. What happens when we die?
children ask & stack their blocks.

How well the colored light hides
the atom’s yawning emptiness!

How well the stars’ backwash hides
the stretching expanse of our grief!

III. Slow Decline

They end their flight
      one by one—
crows at dusk.


books do not gather dust
pages do not warp nor turn yellowbrown

no crates are stacked no boxes
packed nothing to wrap or repair &

skeleton keys click snugly in their locks

the same bonewhite barnacles               still

  cling                 to the underbellies
of the wet greenblack rocks
guarding the tidal pool

where I peer & reach

bending light

for tiny bronzebrown crabs & snails receding like words

until foam floods the rippling
sand &
swallows me again

turning without anchor
bubbles float like dust motes through shafts of light

through the murky green
a face arrives

hands on my hair softly
as in a dream
pulling cobwebs away gently

her warmth envelopes

& slips to shadow

Sarah Yost

Sarah Yost writes poems and teaches. Her poems have appeared in online literary journals, such as Eclectica and The Orange Room Review. Her nonfiction writing has appeared in The Washington Post, Edutopia, The Courier-Journal, Education Week, The Standard, and elsewhere.

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