Editors' Picks, Week 1

Poetry by Liz Ahl and Nora Kirkham


by Liz Ahl


My mother’s house has too many chairs.

I still take the pause of the initiate
when I say “my mother’s house.”

For how many more months or years
will I pause or stutter before saying,
“my mother’s house,” as if I am practicing
a new language, which of course I am?

Unlike her, I’m not immersed
in the country of that language

– the house – their house – her house –

though for her, even living there,
in the daily navigation of a geography of loss,
a steep learning curve, the receptors
for new language acquisition
burned out decades ago.

For both of us, then, still dreaming
in the mother-tongue—
the language where my father,
who designed this house, has not died.
We stumble back and forth long-distance
across translation’s porous membrane,
awkward, tender, misunderstanding, lonely.

At least I’ve got the certainty
the house was never mine—
designed by dad and built
long after I’d spun into my own life—
a welcome place to visit, but
I’d never claimed it, never had
my bedroom painted with my particular
childhood, though some furniture,
certain lamps and paintings, certain chairs,
kept through many homes, many moves,
still project a soft aura of kinship,
an enclosing our of memory.

His recliner is still angled towards hers,
hers towards his, casting blueprint lines
towards an invisible spot out there,
where they eventually intersect,
just on the other side of the picture window
which frames exquisitely the lacquered peaks
and the deep, flat fjord.

In the basement (his, always, still)
of that house (hers),
still perched atop a dusty rattan shelf,
is the perfect scale model of the house
he rendered precisely in white foam-core
complete with cut-out windows,
so he could hold it aloft to understand
how the light would fall into each room.

Jareen Imam author photo

Liz Ahl lives in New Hampshire. Her book of poems, Beating the Bounds, was published in 2017 by Hobblebush Books. Previous collections include the chapbooks Home Economics and Talking About the Weather, published in 2016 and 2012 by Seven Kitchens Press. Her second chapbook, Luck (Pecan Grove, 2010) received the New Hampshire Literary Awards “Reader’s Choice” in Poetry Award in 2011, and her first chapbook, A Thirst That’s Partly Mine, won the 2008 Slapering Hol Press chapbook contest. Her poems have also appeared in Sinister Wisdom, Lavender Review, Prairie Schooner, Court Green, Crab Orchard Review, Measure, Cutthroat, and other journals. She has been awarded residencies at Jentel, Playa, The Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, and The Vermont Studio Center.

From the Grass

by Nora Kirkham


We are on the train home from Aberdeen:
the hills are beginning to spring. You trail gorse
along a smudged window and spot deer,
a whole family of them, folded in a field.
Unfolding before your eyes, you thought
they were hares or birds. I wondered
how many creatures we had passed, how many
lived and died by us without ever knowing
they were seen, and if this matters, anyway.
In June I was in Salisbury, on a bus cresting
up a hill. Beyond the cathedral, a gold-leaf
glow spilled from glass windows and
I saw antlers flying, or maybe I dreamed.
From that bus window, I held on
to three light seconds of hooves lifting,
to the twisting of clover roots and soil
spreading only a millimeter further than
where it had been before.
Perhaps none of this mattered,
but I did not want to arrive at the next stop,
I wanted to turn back, I did not want to go
home. Some might call this haunting, how
these hidden lives breathe their way
up through new strands of grass—
they pass through us all the time. Sometimes,
from a window, we find them,
then forgetting is what makes them fly.

Jareen Imam author photo

Nora Kirkham is a poet from Maine currently based in Scotland. She was raised in Japan, Australia, and Eastern Europe. She holds an MA in Creative Writing from University College Cork, Ireland. Her writing has been featured in Rock & Sling, Ruminate Magazine, Tokyo Poetry Journal, and Topology Magazine.

National Poetry Month

BMP Celebrates National Poetry Month

As the pandemic has continued into its second year, we at Brain Mill are thinking about spaces & places: how we exist in space, the importance of access, and the particulars of navigating places. We have gathered together in ways that may have been new to us over the last few years, greeting each other in small squares of connectivity, developing relationship and care with virtual check-ins, follows, and voices translated via technology. In our best moments we have learned to listen; in our worst, we have been caught up by all the ways we need to do better and think more deeply about community systems and for whom entry is barred.

Top photo by Daniel Watson on Pexels