Sarah J. Sloat

Death endured Lent without eating
and now wears a white dog
to the edge of my yard.

Death throws a stick the dog fetches.
The animal pants at the fence,
a sound I remember

from the day I resembled a hill
hunched up and clutching.

In solitude I inhabit the yard, inviolate
lawn gone suddenly wooden,
splintered with church pew.

Pain, too, is a church I have sat in,
perched at the nave, awaiting acquittal,

believing I could cross the oak with the ash,
believing limbs were just difficult sticks
and gnawing might bend them.

Flush Sky*

In old stories, sleepers found clouds
as easy to talk about as color, fresh blood,

mud, stagnant water, and some species of toad,
all of which have a cloud quality about them.

The sleepers were hunter-gatherers, who
could rethink the visual into fish-sense and cinnamon.

But over centuries a lapse evolved: they got rid
of the terms, the touch, the context.

They sanitized the backlit, and struggled
to identify even common clouds, a taboo

topic linked to sewage and perfume.
Every sleeper gave a different, lengthy description

of the same cloud. They went on and on
like old books, like rain, or chewing gum,

or when you open the door to a forest
that’s been closed a long time.

“Flush Sky” is a found poem collaged from a New Scientist article called “English Speakers, You Stink at Identifying Smells.” The word “smell” was replaced with “cloud,” “speaker” with “sleeper,” “language” with “lapse,” and “English” with “backlit.” (link:

Sarah J. Sloat lives in Frankfurt, Germany, a stone’s throw from Schopenhauer’s grave. Her poems and prose have appeared in Passages North, Whiskey Island, and Beloit Poetry Journal, among other publications. Her chapbook, Inksuite, is available from dancing girl press, which will also publish Heiress to a Small Ruin in late 2015.