In the US, we celebrate Thanksgiving this Thursday. For many people its a nice holiday to get together with family, watch some sports on TV, and over indulge.
For other such as Mallory Nygard, it has another significance, which I’ll let an savvy reader sort out from her poem “Thanksgiving, 1993.” Her poem “Preservation” is also intimate and laced with memory (and just a tiny bit of archaeology). Both poems appear in NDQ 88.3/4 which went to press this past week and should be on its way to readers amid the Christmas rush.
As you likely know, these days are particularly challenging for many cultural institutions, publishers, and little magazines. So even if NDQ doesn’t float your boat, If you can, consider buying a book from a small press, subscribing to a literary journal (like our UNP stablemate, Hotel Amerika), or otherwise supporting the arts.
The first sunrise of my life I do not remember,
but my mother, every year,
tells of the way the world came up for air
after a day of blustering, blinding white winds.
In the midst of the worst snow storm of a lifetime
(certainly my lifetime),
I woke. The glow of the cold sun
seeped thin and bare from behind sheer steel clouds.
Not the brilliant sunrise that carries painters to canvases,
nor the soft luminescence that pulls photographers from bar stools,
but the soundless survival of the coyote who does not stop hunting
until she is satisfied.
I pressed the azaleas between the pages
of a book on ancient Egyptian burial practices.
Mummified petals pulled wide by gravity
and rendered fragile by inattention.
Pressure and time make diamonds and oil,
but, add in my touch, and the blooming bushes
that wave from where the sidewalk ends
become light as lacewings.
The signs of spring I had broken off a branch
left an outline of mauve on the tomb picture;
ghosts of a day when I felt alive and killed
something growing to preserve that memory.
I cannot hold what I care about in these hands.
Fragile, the intake nurse stamps my file. Better to be left
in the care of others than to take care of myself. Better
to be taken care of than to fall apart at the slightest touch.
The scent of a still-smoldering summer sunset
on the prairie of my childhood—cottonwoods
consumed in the rich golden hour—
seeps from the maze of my lungs like a sieve.
Carried on that scent is the memory of running through dry grass
under the widest blue sky towards my father’s outstretched
arms after the cactus pierced my sole.
I ran like a daughter and—for once—he was actually there.
This time, with help, I may let that remembrance rise
like incense from my expanding chest. I may finally let go
of the pressure, the weight, the time,
and learn how to handle myself with care.
Originally from North Dakota, Mallory Nygard now lives and writes in East Tennessee. Her poetry has appeared in Relief, Ekstasis, and Amethyst Review. Her poem “Song of Sarajevo” was named Best in Show at the 2021 Rehumanize International Create | Encounter. Her first collection of poetry, Pelican, was released in 2021.