Rachael Lin Wheeler

Contrapuntal Sestina in Which I Refuse to Perform the Disappearing Act

husk, hunger. there is so much i am learning to yield
to… budless vases, fallen steeple, music that fractures
into confession when it flees the mouth, et cetera. a myth:

                                                                                     my voice’s sound never scares me. i know my name
                                                                                     is outside of me. it grew once from a forest’s garden. 
                                                                                     everyone who walked through was dying & nobody 

reaping whatever may defy the origin of grief. nobody
wants silence to breed only silence. let the trees yield
some new fruit i may hold in my hands; the garden     

                                                                                     would admit this: every stem & sepal fractures
                                                                                     when left unseen for long enough. i have no name 
                                                                                     for how birth forever marks a person. etches a myth

that burst from fists full of seeds, made invisible. myth         
is all i can make of a country i lost; i translate my body
back from the indecipherable. how do i love the names  

                                                                                     of a lineage i’ll never know, but whose shadows i yield 
                                                                                     in an attempt to pull song from the deep grey fractures 
                                                                                     in the ice now enveloping everything in the garden  

i’m assigned but never feel i can claim. the garden       
christens me daughter, but i know of girlhood as myth
—a lustrous guillotine—within which i fracture          

                                                                                     —if fracture is a method of survival. if my body  
                                                                                     is a home, it is ghost-ridden. in place of desire, yielding 
                                                                                     to shame became the usual ritual. a way to name       

that glass exposing a face i’ve looked away from: name      
it mirror, then watch it shatter & fall like a garden’s   
image lit across cathedral windows. let my palms yield         

                                                                                     only softness, only the godless prayers. there are myths 
                                                                                     i won’t worship; others whose absence turns my body 
                                                                                     into a sourceless river—rushing to where it fractures, 

to a place the body may spill into and be held. fracture,                
perhaps, is just a place of remaking. i give it this name    
to make it believable. say it is, because i fear no body           

                                                                                     can sustain its own barrelling current & live. i, garden 
                                                                                     i can resurrect. i, shadow. i, song. i am trying to myth 
                                                                                     myself into existence. name remade: the fruit i’ll yield. 

working to resist its fracture point—will symbol yield          
my body to truth or sever me from it. another myth:
my name. a kind of symbol i croon back to the garden.   

Rachael Lin Wheeler’s work appears in The West Review, Ghost City Review, and SOFTBLOW, among others. A 2020 and 2021 Pushcart Prize nominee, finalist for Tinderbox Poetry Journal’s Brett Elizabeth Jenkins and Majda Gama Editors’ Prizes, and recipient of the Howard Nemerov Writing Scholarship from Washington University in St. Louis, RL can be found on Twitter @rachaellin_ or at rachaellinwheeler.com.