Iris Jamahl Dunkle



That the putting together the patchwork of photos into the spined-order of dark leather albums was for solace—
         a tending to the fray that had begun to blur the corners of her mind like a cataract.

White grease pencil notes: ghosts of names, a past we’ve forgotten the words to.
Some may say: Let her sleep, heart bundled in briars, mouth sewn shut.
The dawn staining awake again and again over that mountain that is the beginning of     the world.
Oh, but every sleep has its end and here we are.
The pages that were almost lost to time have awoken again.
Piecing back the story of a life, pixel by pixel

until there she is, Charmian Kittredge London riding astride on her sorrel mare,
dust kicking up, the whole sky above opening like a question—


Some mountains you look to daily like calendars.
Are they green or golden-flanked today? Wooded, or stripped bare of trees?

Are they smooth faced or pocked by deep quarries?
Are they staring back at you clear-eyed or veiled in fog?

You mark your days with these encounters. Even though you know
the mountain doesn’t see you, it centers you in your life.
That’s why when the plane carried fourteen passengers into the face
of the San Gabriel Mountains she could not breathe.

Bodies carried down on makeshift stretchers. Deaths reported on the radio.
Only Osa Martin was (barely) alive and she thought, if she survives,
she must teach her how to live as a widow. She pulls the cloak
of the surviving night sky close around your throat.