Iris Jamahl Dunkle
Four Prosepoems

The Accident

Her mother's memory of the day, so many years ago, is folded like an origami crane.  Crease — release. The facts are: the blue Honda was accordianed by the careless driver.   They took a Polaroid of the damaged car for insurance purposes. Her mother still touches the photograph through cellophane in the picture book.  She can't forget the sound and space of collision.  The unpredictability of metal and force against the warm space of bodies and safety. 

The little girl was safe.  She had crawled from the hatchback to the safety of her mother's lap just seconds before the car collapsed into the blur of metal and sharp sound.  But, after the accident, her mother could only see her as a ghost.  She became the little girl who could have been lost.  Delicate.  Encased in glass.  She could not be directly touched.  And the space between her mother and her would grow and divide. A knitted cord of light and distance. The way a car passes and blurs into a ribbon of light. 

The Other Lavinia
For Emily Dickinson

The stairs are long and wooden. The cupboard under your bed is where you kept them bound. A secret order. A nightingale. Hands bloodied to stumps, tongue cut out. What was it like, Emily, to be the sister who weaves while the other loves? You took her voice and hid it under your bed to be found like a red, silk handkerchief.


We sit in the attic, sweltering, in the heat of ambition, in the heat of looking for a lyric voice that tells the truth.  Speaking of a rock-minded island, surrounded by froth and the lull of ice cool sea. Speaking in roses, and in breath.  Speaking of the Pleiades and the moon. 

But up from the belly of the house, through the closed door, up the sharp-edged stairs, rise the realities of our lives.  The gurgle and fuss.  The stained clothes.  The dirty dishes heaped in the sink.  The messy haired children who want to eat.

It is how our mind divides.  That, even when the house sits on top of our heads, the briar vines weave up from the rocks and cover us in song.

Sea Town

The couple is still waiting for a sea-town.  The stick of salt on the skin.  The ache and want of the waves and the shore.  The weight of the air.  White rocking chairs, cradling the body but dangerously scraping against the white-washed porch.  The sea is always in their sight and living like an argument even this far inland, this far from a shore.  The town is where there will always be a line, an end to the earth.  A place where the heart hangs and rests in the weight of the fog.