Two Poems

A Thin Line

Once, I saw a river of bats

stream like black confetti over my head,

fan out across the valley,

wing and swerve to swallow mosquitos

in their thin throats. Imagine:

their winged hands in the dark air,

their nipples and warm bellies and tiny shouts

bouncing back the geometry

of moth wings in an ocean of night.


I have a friend who placed them side by side–

two skulls meticulously cleaned: wolf and bat–

the same slide down the nose, hollowed caves

for eyes, even those curved canine teeth.

Almost identical except one was tiny,

one could be crushed to crumbs

between two fingers. He set them on his table

made of black stone with fossils

spiraled like shooting stars. We crouched

on the floor, eye to eye, to see.


There’s not much between us

on the sinewy earth. The sky

is an eggshell that keeps us warm.

Things repeat themselves– and then startle

in their newness, the way bones are

rivers for awhile, and then become river

beds with curves and sockets

where life pooled and chewed.

Memory, too, circles back, the thick

resting weight of your hands on me

like a bat wraps her shawl of wings

around the warm planet of her pulsing heart,

the ice-light of stars a breath away.

Listen to a reading of the poem “A Thin Line”.


maybe there is always a moment

of knowing loss before it arrives

feeling the space we will leave already

filling and welling up as a wave doubles

back rushing into itself even as it pulls

out to sea easy to say from here perched

as I am in this wide field of far where

I study that fire making marks

like wing prints in snow where

the rabbit tracks vanish into glittering

blank we lived a year on the heat

between us falling into tongues skin

I never knew hunger like that on the streets

with no queers we walked side by side

not touching the simmering between us

polishing linden trees and jugglers at traffic lights

the snowy cordillera behind the city rising

clear in a rain-rinsed sky and towards

the end I felt us crest felt that wave

thickening into us even in the dissolve

we sat in the crowded café not talking

our tongues fat and quiet and still

dumb as time in honey mute as spoons

I think we barely touched fingertips

under the table half-filled coffee cooling

in cups din of talk around us and under

the steady hum of cars on the avenue

trees in their muscled slow language and worms

twisting under the grass and under

your tongue your mother’s curse sat

like a stone worse than death she said

and we were quiet and helpless as we filled

into our bodies our breath blood yes our love breaking

over us more than we could bear

but what choice did we have

some hollowing between us inside

us some hiss of air leaving even

as it was rushing back in

A Thin Line was previously published in Terrain.org

curse was previously published in Nimrod International Journal for Prose and Poetry.

Listen to a reading of the poem “Curse”.

About Anne Haven McDonnell

Anne Haven McDonnell lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico where she teaches as associate professor in English and Creative Writing at the Institute of American Indian Arts. Her poetry has been published or is forthcoming in Orion Magazine, The Georgia Review, The American Journal of Poetry, Nimrod International Journal of Prose and Poetry, Alpinist Magazine, About Place Journal, Fourth River, Terrain.org, and elsewhere. Her poems won the fifth annual Terrain.org poetry prize and have been nominated for a Pushcart prize. Anne has been a writer-in-residence at the Andrews Forest Writers’ Residency and the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology.

Read more