Sigman Byrd

Each Night I Sit Outside on My Black Cushion no longer waiting. I follow my breathup past the cold constellationscirculating westward over the neighborhood.Castor and Pollax peek through the pine tree’s snow-crusted branches.The red, unblinking eye of Mars,if in high summer, pierces a flankof eastern sky. And the bodhisattva moon. I am awake, it says. I hear the moon.I see the waxing sliver of myselfreflected up there, all of us alive,all of us who ever lived, lensed, bodied, rising out of the locked vaultof language. O bliss, the unbargained-forbonanza at the end of the story.Each night radio signals and light waves pass through me.I am the transmitter and telescope.I am what fifteen billion years of cosmicevolution can do with a hydrogen atom. Sewing the Rakusu* I keep the needle steady, follow the strict wax pencil line. Two notches forward,then back, one slip-stitch at a time, I am sewingmy life. I wake up in the cloth panels of the field, ironing,basting, turning the allowances, as if I knewwhat I was doing. The temple bell stops, but I hear the ringing rise in each knot of theseworking hands, in the cold stubble of the firstorange-gray incandescence at dawn. Too late, maybe it’s too late for me. But I keepfeeding the black thread into the black poolof material. Who am I, swapped out like this? Who am I pinningthe creases, straightening the ring? I stitchthe broken pine branch on the placket, living like all last things,dying, so I may listen to the still mind of the tree,so I may be, now, the nameless forest walking over the mountain. *A rakusu is a traditional, bib-like garment worn around the neck of Zen Buddhists who have received the precepts, life-guiding principles based on the experience of no-self. The Unlearning I called them my hands, but that was the story I had been told, the familiar myth of belongingI told myself. From the beginning, a quantum darkness rose in the spotless mirror. I watched the handsventure out to discover what pagesthey could turn or peoplethey could touch. But what did I know about how intimacy burns? Fork of tendons, veins’ alluvial tangle, on the left wrist abovethe flexor carpi radialis, a tiny, sideways birthmark shapedlike North America. I held the water. I picked up the backpack. I took the fishhookout of the bloody thumb. Whatever I did, I saw the hands dangling in the mirrorand no longer believed.
Sigman Byrd is the author of two books of poetry, "Wake Up, Sleepwalker" (Conundrum Press, 2014) and "Under the Wanderer’s Star" (Marsh Hawk Press, 2006), which won the Marsh Hawk Press Poetry Prize and the University of Colorado’s Eaton Faculty Award. He has also published a chapbook of poems, "Who We Were" (Finishing Line Press, 2010). In addition, he has received a Dobie-Paisano Fellowship from the Texas Institute of Letters, a MacDowell Colony Fellowship, an Academy of American Poets Prize, and was a runner-up for the Grolier Poetry Prize. He has received a Pushcart Prize nomination for poems published in Fine Madness and Ploughshares, and his poem “Diabetic” received a special mention from the Pushcart Prize editors. He has published other poems in the Alaska Quarterly Review, American Literary Review, American Poetry Review, Antioch Review, Arete, Ascent, Austin American-Statesman, Borderlands, CEA Critic, Crazyhorse, Georgia Review, Grolier Poetry Prize Annual, Gulf Coast, Hotel Amerika, Many Mountains Moving, Mid-American Review, New England Review, New Madrid, Passages North, Pequod, Plume, Ploughshares, Poetry, Poetry Daily, Poetry Northwest, Prairie Schooner, Puerto del Sol, Sonora Review, South Dakota Review, Southern Review, Southern Poetry Review, Southwest Review, Sou’wester, Texas Observer, Tiferet, Utter, Verse Daily, and the Wallace Stevens Journal.