Once, there was a knife, a bone sliver
of wood, a crate packed with balls of white hair:
my mother’s weaving loom,
unscrewed, growing out of cardboard boxes
like strange plants in the basement,
her voice returning to my shoulder.
Her words wrap around the shuttle,
darting it through the strings:

quiet knotted harp.

Now, backstage I rustle in my gown, worried, a dried flower
rubbing off leaves in a pantry, in darkness.

This is tuning: pinching
a black peg between thumb and index finger like a dead bee,
the moaning—
weak chairs creaking underneath guests,
then a perfect sound—my fingers slide between sofa cushions—
four silver quarters,             success,         Eratosthenes
painting sun triangles with poles stuck in sand.

The audience is an airplane shadow
spreading across chairs
like our house roof so close to O’Hare
that each engine scream
cast our bodies into statues for five seconds.

Now there is this moment:
when the slim canoe slaps against the dock,
empty, when the body must balance inside
petal-thin walls. An oar slides into the water,
grazes rock.
                    I drift off, shoulders rowing:

a river bird, an ink-brush,
trees my father taught me to draw by standing under them.

This is why I spend years building stables
—finger-joints measured, solid,
strong enough to protect all of the horses.

Tyler Mills