T. M. Strong comes from a small train town in New Mexico where rainstorms are precious and ravens build nests in sandstone crevices. A graduate of the Alpha Young Writers Workshop, she is currently studying Creative Writing at a small arts college.
The tiger pushes open the door after dusk,
flat head pressing into wire-brushed wood.
She slinks, calloused pads rasping against the floor.
A ghost. She appears behind you in the kitchen
where you have stirred the stew:
four to the right
three to the left to make seven, stretched out
to luck. Look,
her eyes, reflected in the steel pot, are gold, ochre,
last night’s sunset you think she watched from the railing
of a highway bridge. You step carefully across
the bloody, sticky tracks she left on the floor to set the table.
In winter, she brings snow.
In autumn, muddy twigs,
like wands, you line up on your dresser.
She, tiger-ghost, sits at the table
triangle-chin trailing moss
across the hard maple top,
remnants of her last meal, fish,
you think, scavenged from the woods
and add salmon to your shopping list.
A toast, to the tiger-ghost.
You lift your glass, cheap red wine sloshing
as you take a sip. You close your eyes,
open them again, to an empty room,
empty plate licked clean.
Red paw prints in the kitchen,
wine, you could almost convince yourself
spilled as no wine should be—
into four chestnuts and a ragged crescent,
this moon, half-eaten and left out
for you to see.
After the Rain
~ the last two lines come from “This Is Just To Say” by William Carlos Williams ~
After the rain, mica-flecked stones become galaxies. My eyes are drawn
to wet rocks and dried cakes of mud,
chapped like lips.
After the rain, hard hooves are packed with clay,
water clings to eyelashes underneath mud-tangled forelocks,
and coats are glazed mocha-brown.
After the rain, the air seems thick enough to pinch, touch,
gobble down like some sort of delicacy—
anything but marmalade.
After the rain, wind—breathless air’s daughter,
is a bolt of fragrant silk
and can be caught between fingertips:
braid me like challah and eat me.
After the rain, we discuss the size of the hail that came before
the water trickling down the arroyo,
like sobs cleaving the ground apart. Here,
earth shifts slowly: a pinch of sand becomes a handful
and we remember;
an uprooted juniper floated down the arroyo once, silt clinging to its sides
like dried ink, put on too thick and peeling
off the page.
After the rain, small holes lie full—shallow dips in the road where the best puddles grow.
I remember the muddy water filling up my boots
and how I refused to empty them until they grew too heavy,
too great a weight,
like the wounds I imagine this rain cleaning out
so they can heal.
Wounds in our skin,
in your skin,
in the skin of the donkey who shouldered on and on.
After the rain, we dry our clothes;
my jacket is wet because I unzipped it
to feel the water on my skin.
I stole a line of a poem to turn over and over on my tongue,
matched to the beat of muddy footsteps:
and so cold.”