3 poems by Tara Bray

Om or Aum Has Three Sounds
                                 --line from the Prasna Upanishad


The hermit tossing
in his cold bed.
Paper, wind,
the winter ground.


Leaning against
a longleaf pine, a girl
asks for knowledge,
listens to the pine-tarred
silence, her stomach
empty, her mouth wet.


That branch. That beetle.
That skunk cabbage.
That tear drop.
That one. That one.

Prayer for Yogini and Student

May the purple taste of lament
dust your mouths of separation.

May the postures of old men and all
their quiet suffering join your arms.

May the golden hill of death
break your bodies into one glint

of breath, one dance of form.
May you stand together, still

as earth's brown table, humble trees
in a blue-eyed field of chicory.

In the Woods

And then, at the break of a motherless dark,
like a traveler I found my way to the woods.
Worn out, yet singing through scratched lips,
I burrowed into scraps of leaves and bark-dust
to lick my bones, still young, but old
from taking myself under my own wing.
And then the vultures came, tipping in the wind
with their red heads of kindness,
their quiet flight an anodyne for grief.

In treetops, they perched, then spread their wings
in unison, lifted every muscle up, but did not leave--
their claws wound round branches and holding firm.
Their torn feathers worked me to recall
those blood-soaked carcasses in distant Georgia dirt,
the ragged birds lording over them.

And yet there was a kind of comfort
in the variation of their neutral tones,
so I made the forest floor my napping ground
and woke to a deer not twenty feet away
looking into my face. Quieted and stilled,
I knew this too was real. I closed my eyes
and stared into the dark lid of grief,
while what was wild looked me over
one last time and slipped away.
Deliberately I let a perfect moment drift--
the vultures in my dreams, still holding on.
And all of this is what abiding is.

Tara Bray is a poet whose work has appeared in numerous literary journals. Her more recent work can be found in The Southern Review, Green Mountains Review, Crab Orchard Review, and Puerto del Sol. She held the Walton Fellowship at the University of Arkansas, where she completed her MFA in May of 2003.

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