that smalls our angles: your hand in someone’s mouth, your shoulder
in someone’s mouth, your elbow in someone’s whole mouth, your foot
up to the ankle bone between someone’s lips, maybe all love
is big-mouthed or remarkably jawed. That’s probably true. Maybe
all the love we’ll know is really a knowing about the remarkable ways
we open & close, hinge, unhinge. Here, where I live now, even
the water rattles. Not one door fits its frame. If we could forget the way
things are supposed to fold into each other—someone’s cupped palm,
someone’s legs & your legs, or the work of sash & sill, the work of stile &
knob & panel & goings &—. Or what’s remembered: ribs & sternum
& all the windows thrown open & someone’s fingers along your clavicle,
that sorrowed cage—threshold might also mean someday, mean again,
might remind that the architecture’s job is also one of proportion, of scale,
& in the hands of any love our bodies might & angle & set flush.
this unmade day where small, they say, is the new big, the new black, a
substitute for any modifier, made insignificant only by connotation. But we
know it as verb, this sometimes prayer. Small my hands. Small our hearts in
that emptying out. Small these lines, any lines. Small the boy I am trying to
learn to let go. Small the bones in our feet—three called Cuneiform—our
skeletal articulations. Small memory of other days. Small the fractures we
sustain, those sometimes unbearable breaks, these rents. Small our bodies
against wind, our bodies pressed against another, our bodies folding in. Small
that voice, my son’s near-whisper, when he talks about
a birdfeeder he made to hang on a tree once planted small, now shading, for
the baby born still before he even was. Small the “o” of my mouth when he
tells it. Small this ache that remembers the call, the narrowest room smalling,
all those years ago. Small the grief of each day. Small the hours without words.
Smaller the hours with words. Small the winter in this rearview. Small the river
so like a vein. Small the urgent pitch I feel to keep that water in sight. Small
the names I know to call it, to call anything. Small what goes unsaid for years,
in morning light, in any light, that muting.
Monica Berlin’s recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in Crazyhorse, Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Cincinnati Review, TriQuarterly, Ninth Letter, Witness, DIAGRAM, The Southeast Review, Third Coast, RHINO, The Missouri Review, Fourteen Hills, New Orleans Review, and Passages North, among others. Collaborations with Beth Marzoni have been published in Colorado Review, New Orleans Review, DIAGRAM, Quarterly West, Vela, TYPO, Better: Culture & Lit, ellipsis…, and others. She is the project director for The Knox Writers’ House digital archives of contemporary literature, and was the nonfiction editor at Fifth Wednesday Journal (2011-13). An Associate Professor of English at Knox College, Berlin also serves as Associate Director of the Program in Creative Writing.