Tori McCandless

Past the Dunes

I went far past the dunes, passing through

a net of kelp that kept breaking, water the color

of pelt, a breathing lung. The spit of sand dislodged itself

and all of its purple seeped out. These were the latter days,

struck down with change, when we remembered nothing, left

boxes unopened then moved on, too entirely undone.

Did my shading grow fainter, the half yellow of half

of a sunflower? Each minute seemed to skim the surface,

our words just circled back on themselves, notched

in the wood again and again, until the grooves turned

into channels and we flooded out. Everything was

swallowed by the distance. But then again, everything was

shadow and iridescence, flickering through filtered

light, wet and heavy. The trawlers combing the

bottom of the ocean turned out to be another myth

and we were left on the shoreline.

           I had believed it was all in good faith. But structures had given way

          to a current that grew fat with time, like something

         I could raise or raze.

Helicopter Seeds

You know how to identify the calls of hummingbirds, so we hear them before our eyes find their tiny bodies, wings vibrating so as to become invisible. They look like they are part bird and part plant. I try to draw them, but my need for control ends in tracing over lines, erasing and erasing, until a gray smudge appears. My shading points to no sun, no real shadow, but the movement of shadow.

In the afternoon, helicopter seeds populate the pages of our book, wedged in between chapters, planted in rows. I take a deep breath that gets caught in my chest; that gets caught in between the lines on the page. I take a deep breath that doesn’t germinate, that gets stuck underground. Part plant and part prayer, voiced silently.

We survey small cities of lichens and moss, making the observation that many things can be disjointedly jointed, like an elaboration on the difficulty of bending towards someone else. This jointing, like an uncomfortable pause, a transition. It is not unlike the moment when what we can hear isn’t visible.

Seven Hundred Percent More

One hundred years ago
there were one-seventh the amount of people
in the world than there are today

so when Lorine’s voice in a flooded marsh wrote:
head, write something!
there was less noise,
so the water circling her house
sounded louder?

I get up early
and light a candle.
My neighbor’s figs aren’t ripe yet––

I conceal myself,
            I seal myself
                    I con my days into
                               little sealed lists.   

repeated smears of mint scaffold an ache
I watch: shadow of a philodendron
I open a window: check the air quality index

one hundred years later,
there is seven hundred percent more
an inexact equation to measure

Smears of mint roof the burn,
            and conceal a turn of phrase,
                        that doesn’t mend the water,

the corralled creek
          the fill of tidal floodplain,
          continue to pale,
          even if in company.

Tori McCandless

Tori McCandless is a writer, teacher, and PhD Candidate in the Department of English at the University of California, Davis. They are currently at work on a dissertation that explores the representation of environmental disaster as it intersects with marginalized subjectivities in mid-century American poetry. Their writing can be found in ASAP/Journal, Edge Effects, and Lavender Review, among others.