The Dead

by Christina Hutchins

Because the living grow damp with motion,
sometimes the dead seem like pure air
or praise itself. But that warm mouth purpled
by last year’s plum! My Joseph, my Holly,
both laughing in a darkened sun,

I still hear you, a little. & my father so slight,
so pale, suddenly young & still, & still
so still, when did my lips begin? When
did that forehead sprouting kindness, end?
Straps of a new knapsack over my shoulders,

today I become a footpath of spent breath
wandering toward the first day of school. Those faces
on the playground, every one is new: unfettered
& moving, alive. Am I too late, already?
You are dead, & now here’s my hand,

ready finally to steady you across this rough-rooted
field, across the horn-jammed streets, the glistering
stream… A graffitied overpass is stained with dew,
& our bodies dream on both sides. Awaken
from its stupor the anesthetized dust I’ve become.

Pumping lung & sensible skin, holy sheen
of love, gather the bellows of this temple arch!
Barely brushed by the broad-leaf & combed
green by needles I can’t reach, there’s a breath.
Not a breath, but so near, so gently spirited,

its transport might as well be waterfall mist
or the red flute of fuchsia that stirs the ache
of the hummingbird into flight. See it drinking there,
fluttering the pages of its wings so quickly you can
see through them to the day on the other side.


The Beak & The Body Entire

Christina Hutchins

Christina Hutchins’ recent poems appear in Antioch Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Denver Quarterly, The New Republic, Salmagundi, The Southern Review, and Women’s Review of Books. In 2010-11, she won The Missouri Review Editor’s Prize, National Poetry Review’s Finch Prize, the Becker Chapbook Prize for RADIANTLY WE INHABIT THE AIR, and Sixteen Rivers Press published THE STRANGER DISSOLVES. She holds degrees from University of California, Harvard, and the Graduate Theological Union and has worked as a biochemist and as a Congregational minister. She now teaches poetry and the philosophies of Judith Butler and Alfred North Whitehead to graduate students at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley and serves as the first poet laureate of Albany, California.

photo by Ronna Leon