Because He Cannot Be Human, and She Cannot Be Donkey. by Dianna Mackinnon Henning

Because He Cannot Be Human, and She Cannot Be Donkey.

His name is Jacob, his fur an unruly thatch.
My sister is in love with him, brings him carrots,
apples and such. He lives in a field down the road from her
in Starksboro, Vermont. They are neighbors.

I wonder if he dreams about her at night,
if he’d like to snuggle with her at the old Mill House
on cold evenings. He reaches so far into his barreled chest
for a voice to greet her that it must take years

for such braying as his, a voice filled with such sadness
that only momentarily they will meet like this; two
reaching across the fence to hold, to stay held, to be
steadied by what fierce yearning as brings opposites together.

by Dianna Mackinnon Henning, first appeared in Pacific Poetry

Editor’s Note: This poem begins with simple imagery and a sweet story, but soon pushes the reader past that and into an intense emotional reckoning.

Blood Relative by Dianna Mackinnon Henning

Blood Relative

I never knew my long, winsome Aunt Winona, her
arms a fine bone China, face
a Modigliani; someone who might
have recited Keats or Robert Burns, perhaps pressed
roses in a family Bible along with divorce filings. What

she smelled of, not a hint, her voice, no trace. In the only
photo, her holding me in infancy, there’s
a clue: her gaze stuck
between ahead and behind—pretty
woman with a bobbed cut. Her satin, A-line dress

slack over the cliff of her hips; her wedge shoes, Suiter
Hat with black veil, all speaking a certain
respectability—small ruby necklace, a blood stain,
resting in the hollow of her throat; a premonition
to the blood clot she’d later die from. Given Winona’s

necklace years after she passed, I often wore it, until
one day, taking an outdoor shower, I soaped
the spot it rested in, groped for the familiar chain, searched
drain-rocks, and understood that I held loss as though
it were the only stable thing to hold, when a woman decides enough.

by Dianna Mackinnon Henning

Editor’s Note: The meticulous descriptions of a long dead aunt fool the reader into thinking the point of this poem is mere memory, but the closing lines show that there is much more going on here beneath the surface.

To Eat Ice by Dianna Mackinnon Henning

To Eat Ice

A tree-frog found its home in our dog’s fur. Not
a log-cabin, geodesic dome or even

an A-frame. No, the architecture
of convenience was at work, and our

dog snored while the frog dug deeper
into Sakari’s dense double coat. I mulled

over hiding places, igloos built
from snow, summer huts,

support beams of birch poles. How
fast we love a thing—fasten it to our souls,

peel the birch to curl into small canoes;
eat the ice of our homes and strike forbidden fires;

flames fanning silhouettes on our hard
packed snow. When we got so

cold we thought ourselves hardwood, we mad-
dashed inside to the stove’s fire, where

we counted lives inside each spark that sent
its star across the dark.

by Dianna Mackinnon Henning

Editor’s Note: This poem’s meandering narrative leads the reader to believe it will end up in one place, but then it travels to another, and one is left richer for the journey.