I met a woman who’d been struck by lightning.
She held herself like a firefly
when she told me. That’s something
I thought. She was now her own gold.
I was pregnant then, fourth boy, more full moon
than ever. But all that beautiful milk
went sour when he died, the stuttering milk
that dripped from me lightening
each day and by the time the moon
waned so had I. What came out next was fire
and like a wild man digging for gold
you searched for me nights I left something
cold out for dinner, turned some thin
line into a stone wall. Love, drink this milk
of our grief with me, tell me the days are gold,
and though I push you away, let the lightning
of you find the dry tree of me, and after, fireflies
rise from our bed, strike dumb the brutish moon.
Forget the hospital machine blank as the moon
behind clouds the night we turned into something
we couldn’t name. Let’s reclaim the days of first fire
when in our house of futons and cheap milk,
we rang each other like bells, like strands of lightning.
Love, how the river of you washed me. Oh, the gold
in your beard then and the gold
in the finches winging endlessly against the moons
of our windows. I come humbly in the lightning
of my grief now. I eat the cold crumbs of something
we made together and lost, the chipped glass of milk
rattling in my hands burns me like the longest fire.
This simple meal of our life more fire
than water in our fractured bodies. Love, stuff gold
into the hands of strangers, spill the milk
of your laughter, anchor the moon
in your quiet hands and give me something
to believe in again. Even a dogged, tenuous light.
And say it, Love, we’ve been struck by lightning,
that milky gold something
that’s changed us, made us strange. The moon on fire.
Sunni Brown Wilkinson’s poetry is forthcoming in Western Humanities Review, Coal Hill Review, New Ohio Review, and Ruminate. She is the author of The Marriage of the Moon and the Field (Black Lawrence Press, 2019) and The Ache & The Wing (winner of Sundress Publications’ 2020 Chapbook Prize). Her work has been awarded New Ohio Review’s NORward Poetry Prize, the Joy Harjo Poetry Prize, and the Sherwin W. Howard Award. She teaches at Weber State University and lives in northern Utah with her husband and three sons.
by Sunni Brown Wilkinson
Runner-Up, Ruth Stone Poetry Prize