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Laynie Browne

Laynie Browne's recent books include a collection poems, Translation of the Lilies Back into Lists (Wave Books 2022) and the anthology, A Forest on Many Stems: Essays on The Poet’s Novel (Nightboat, 2021). Forthcoming books include Letters Inscribed in Snow (Tinderbox, 2022) and Apprentice to a Breathing Hand (Omnidawn, 2025). Honours include a Pew Fellowship, the National Poetry Series Award and the Contemporary Poetry Series Award. She teaches and coordinates the MOOC Modern Poetry at University of Pennsylvania.


Three poems from Names, Before They Were Maidens

Halo of sky

The past life memory arose gazing at the sky at dusk, on the path to the pond. The faint peach color tinged a circle of sky, a halo represented, ringed by trees, the exact same color as two foxes I'd seen on this path the previous evening. The previous evening sewn to the soles or crown of this apparition, a procession of filmic figures walking toward a seeded hemisphere. Meaning—one quarter of an inch under—approaching dark provides depth necessary for germination.


I saw a person differently, once attached, or so close, so as to mistake someone else for myself. A mistake is always mistaken. No one is anyone other than themselves yet mostly forgetting we tend to divide: self from self, any from other. Belonging only sounds long. First be, and then longing, as in going gone wrong, a gong announcing long leavened days, clouds escorting moods, outlining figures. What I saw was this—a tiny twinned fairy emoji—standing on the other side of the tracks or inside a clothespin—or was it on a phone—or actually nowhere? What nowhere saw was pressing though not precisely seen. What I mean is in pulling back, just far enough to notice one body is not another. A new vocabulary emerges. Words fall apart and disassemble themselves waiting for vehicular transport that may not arrive. Instead, a glimpse into woods, or a meadow ten degrees cooler, or a location as non-local consciousness. A new delight and so the word 'appreciation,' which sounds absolutely inadequate, moves between lungs. A metal ladder invoking a train. A song for no reason.


The wineberries were ripening and she wanted to stop and pick them, thinking she shouldn't

because she would miss her train. The road was busy and she walked with a suitcase boldly toward the paved part of the road, staying out of the margins which would trip up her wheels in gravel. Even before reaching the road she had shed her previous worry inhaling an early morning fragrance strong, sweet, unmistakable, yet she had no idea from which blossoming shrub or tree. The scent was magnificent and she wondered how it was that she had never before encountered this wafting perfume. The plants are so intelligent, she thought, and then she wondered, about the invisible library of floral signatures through which she constantly walked.



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