Still Life: A Slant of Light, a Mammal

A stillness, some light that marks the shadow.
Even in spring when my coat sheds at my fingers

on the buttons, my shirt and base layer,
too, fallen to ground: a stillness. A light

ribbons my shoulder, my collarbone, makes
a dappling, a lace. O the winter here,

too long, too full of salt and cloud, loosened
enough for the bramble of me, for the

honeysuckle and forsythia,
the only flowers I knew to name.

In the stillness, the ease of your name
like blossom or bloom. Here the brown eye, black,

a dilation. Hear the blood, a promise:
the bramble is deep — it longs to part for you.

Donika Kelly is the author of The Renunciations (Graywolf), winner of the Anisfield-Wolf book award in poetry, and Bestiary (Graywolf), the winner of the 2015 Cave Canem Poetry Prize, a Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for Poetry and the Kate Tufts Discovery Award. Kelly’s poetry has been a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Publishing Triangle Awards, the Lambda Literary Awards, and longlisted for the National Book Award.  A Cave Canem graduate fellow and member of the collective Poets at the End of the World, she has also received a Lannan Residency Fellowship, and a summer workshop fellowship from the Fine Arts Work Center. She earned an MFA from the University of Texas at Austin and a PhD in English from Vanderbilt University. Her poems have been published in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Paris Review, and elsewhere. Donika lives in Iowa City with her wife, the nonfiction writer Melissa Febos, and is an assistant professor in the English Department at the University of Iowa, where she teaches creative writing.