Hillary Gravendyk





Creature of occasion, remember where you have been, which leaves have teeth, which leaves are shaped like a pair of lungs. The closed landscape glitters. My name is Acutifolius: having sharp edges. Underside of each frond like a powdery line of Braille.  Air stuttering with leaves. There’s a night inside the night inside my chest. Forest air cool as a plum’s dark flesh. The hand goes black against the low green. I’m Candicans: looking white or frosted. Or Sylvaticus, Californicus. In the crowded wood, I see the several eyes go down. Black air folds around low ferns.  Asleep, I laid my hand on the tree until my skin turned to bark.



Lantern Canyon

The route within is familiar—
dedicated pilgrims

prefer circuits, only sentiment
dictates a frontier.

So there is a way-chapel
of cell gray stars, there
a nucleus of wet pebbles,
laid in moss—

twigs crossed in an arrow
intently, absently
must, after all, mark.

Your hand is a furrow pressing
out a darkness and in the stuttering
breath, a portal—

Nimbus cloud lung
shuddering toward the gash
of morning, remember:

pioneers slash only toward a territory
they remember.

The vein is an intimate thoroughfare.
Still, nothing comes first.

The heart expands in circles:
the pioneer,
the pilgrim,
both gather at the core—

one tearing out the bright veins,
one tending their short light.




There is a break under the skin,

forced up like a rough stone.

Someone threaded a loom

of nails, spelled gentle ghost.

What haunts us is our softness

When we touch the places our chests are closed

against each other.



Beneath the Stiff Wing of a White Fir

Hived lung, yellow and tangled with blue air.  At the office of synchronized bowers, she charges up the dirt stair and vanishes into the promising veil of brightness.  Reflection studded sky, greening and pitted with green weeds; the green-eyed hills carved into an unburnt hearth, purple with cold.  She wanders in gladness, picks along the rinsed-rock ridge, curls into the heat of bleached summit, the blood warming in its tunnels, the ice cracking underfoot.  Now she emerges from the breath-hot cloud, perhaps, into sharp air thinned like a row of seedlings.  Passes beneath the stiff wing of a white fir, or beneath the shadowed ripple of a bird, flinching in the skeletal air.  Once I whitened the hides of animals with a blue soap, a prism trick.  Once the crowded cattle pressed their hooves into the purple-black muck, and slept dreamless and musky with each others heat. In the slippery grooves of the chest another sleep ratchets closer, yellow with significance, clouded with ash.



 Hillary Gravendyk is an Assistant Professor of English at Pomona College in Claremont, CA. Her poetry has appeared in journals such as American Letters & Commentary, The Bellingham Review, The Colorado Review, The Eleventh Muse, Fourteen Hills, MARY, 1913: A Journal of Forms, Octopus Magazine, Tarpaulin Sky and other venues. Her chapbook, The Naturalist, was published by Achiote Press in 2008. Her book, Harm, will be out this fall from Omnidawn Press. She lives on the eastern edge of LA county.