Four Poems

Self-Portrait as Jessica with Phoropter and Ursa Minor


It was like following a map
that line by line erased itself
until one day it showed blank.

It was a compass that failed
a little more by the month
till it simply spun circles.

It was a daily change of glasses
fluctuating strength
so that vision fishbowled.

North Star, I could not find.
It dissipated, dissolved,
white heat into day’s white,
in blankness left me blind.


If I had left a note when I eloped in the night,
it might have said: Dear Father,
my loss is not yours to hold
like a handful of glass slivers.

There are too many ways to say
I’m sorry without returning to the fold,
without remitting the chest of jewels and ducats
I’ll have already spent, your years of investment.

My sorries would all be holding
their breaths. I beg you not to make a fist,
needling shards in. I am what you raised
and will always be what I am. If you want

to blame my husband or Mom, long gone,
know I will step into the gondola on my own
without his steadying hand, without
her ghostlight.

But I’ll keep her ring,
the turquoise, remembering
how you wouldn’t trade it
for a wilderness of monkeys.

And although I’m no longer with you,
know this—
I’m not quite anywhere else.

Self-Portrait of Jessica as Mormon Meeting House, Repurposed

Hear you me, Jessica:
Lock up my doors; . . .
. . . stop my house’s ears
—Jessica’s father, Shylock,
The Merchant of Venice

be of good cheer, for truly I think you
are damned
—The Merchant of Venice


I used to sit squirmy in a plastic row to memorize
Articles of Faith, all thirteen ingrained on fleshy
tables, but I’ve unstopped my house’s ears, thrown open
casements, unlocked doors to memory’s architects
and vandals, now every other word razed—

We believe in                      ,                      ,
and in                      ,                      ,
and in Holy                      .

Stolen, the old Fribergs, Nephi’s muscled arm outstretched
to rebuke the rebellious. In their stead, squares of pale
patch the halls, a ghost gallery.

Interstellar maps graffiti distance between this galaxy
and godlessness. In lieu of Michelangelo’s Sistine heaven,
evolution extends a finger to Homo erectus.

We believe in being honest, true,                      ,
benevolent,                      , and in doing good to all                      ;
anything                      , lovely, or of good report
or praiseworthy,                      seek after these                      .


In the chapel, lustrous brass organ pipes
still line the altar wall, and when the wind sweeps
through flung-open windows
across their waiting mouths,
hear the haunt of hymns—

We’ll find the place                      ,
Far away, in the West,
Where none shall come to hurt or make afraid;
There the saints, will be .

Arched windows flood with shine and highlight
a massive portrait left hanging—a pioneer in forget-me-not
blue, baby in arms, a covered wagon’s hulk
looming behind her like a domestic beast,
prairie guardian seagulls wheeling in her wake. I name her:
Madonna of the Sagebrush. Goddess of the West.

We’ll make the air, with music ring,
Shout praises                      ;
these words we’ll tell—
!                      !


And here the balcony pew where my father gave me
my first set of scriptures bound in white pleather,
my name embossed in cursive silver. The echo of teachers’
voices, pressing:Insert yourself in the first verse—

I,                      , having been born of goodly parents,
therefore I was taught somewhat
in all the learning
of my father

In the basement, the footprint of the baptismal font
ripped out, where my father dipped me under
a chlorine skin to bleach me clean, before I could pinch
my nose, before I could seal myself
a breath, and I inhaled water.

I baptize you in the name
of the Father,
and of                      ,
and of                      .

Self-Portrait as Perdita as Lost I

start somewhere / start lost / re / member mother
vowel the abyss / lumen the chaos / see /
no / corona of smell color / no word / no water
moved over the face of / Gaia / a lost country / she was dream
phantasm / she was bear / ly there / memory always
a felt hollow / a feel of fam / ly / Her / not heard
grey lady gone / storm gone steam / where
wander the lost / a lake of / abandon a desert / deserted
daughter / exed out / slow slay / a statue over a grave
snap awake / ungap the ocean / unknown / unowned
sorry she’s wept so / sorry / at last see /
Her unsewn shadow of snow / we / share a shape of {                     }


Portrait of Hermione as Phantom Limn

I was prisoned / in my mind dead / to the world and my / children dead in my cells / I learned to thin / fingers down throat / bring up / abyss when you’re older when / you’re older you’ll / stand under / my blame I self / your father deaf / I sang out help / me helpme hell / all the world’s a / cage / of bone / skin to stone to shell to shield / necrotized grey/ oscuro oscuro your face / through scrim of storm / blame I oracle’s slow / grace / mercy too late rules / rigid / an ice-block bed / strip this winding sheet / snow weight shroud we / should’ve heard it fallfallfall:

Dayna Patterson is the Managing Editor of Bellingham Review, Poetry Editor for Exponent II Magazine, and Editor-in-Chief of Psaltery & Lyre. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in The American Journal of Poetry, Hotel Amerika, North American Review, The Fourth River, Literary Mama, Weave, and others.

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1 thought on “Four Poems”

  1. Also, I am so excited to hear Roger Housden has a new Ten Poems book. I have absolutely loved his other books. Highly recommend.


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