Brynn Saito

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River Through

Mother, if you let me, I’ll lay down with you tonight—
your own mother dead, your brother long gone, your other brother

praising your eyesight and your long-stemmed intentions
making gardens happen. In the broken and choking

California valley, reservoirs sink into themselves, ghost-waters rain
over un-blossomed orchards, stones stand watch over souls.

We bury her body. Wind aches to be sung through us, sunlight
catches the rose tips near the silver casket. You call out  

the scriptures like a child again, we are children again,
we call for her spirit and she comes. We cry without crying

and she comes. We were circling the body of a living saint,
though how could we have known it? She kept watch over us

the whole of our lives like a standing river. Now Leigh’s
in the kitchen and Stella’s in the garden and Father’s

growing funeral flowers where nothing was. Mother
if you let me, I’ll lay down with you tonight. I’ll summon

my body to meet your body. We’ll water the breathable world
with the bravery of our grief. We are bodies of water. We are one

body of water. We river through.


Brynn Saito is the author of two books of poetry, Power Made Us Swoon (2016) and The Palace of Contemplating Departure (2013), which won the Benjamin Saltman Poetry Award from Red Hen Press and was a finalist for the Northern California Book Award. Her poetry has been anthologized by Helen Vendler and Ishmael Reed; it has also appeared in the New York Times Sunday Magazine, Poetry Northwest, and Virginia Quarterly Review. She is the recipient of a Kundiman Asian American Poetry Fellowship and winner of the Key West Literary Seminar’s Scotti Merrill Memorial Award. Originally from Fresno, CA, Brynn teaches and works in the San Francisco Bay Area.