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by Brynn Saito

You Don’t Believe

in barren. You believe in emptiness

and the silence that comes before meaning.

You believe in the snow shining its reverse

spectacle of sunlight as you drive through the west

with your partner asleep and the dogs asleep

and your parents safe and alive in your childhood

home in the Central Valley. The sun makes a thumbprint

in a white-out sky. The sheen of it reminds you

of that winter in Seoul when you traveled

the country alone, seeking the shape of your face

in all the other faces, drinking barley tea

with near strangers, circling the golden mounds

of Gyeongju, those ancient Silla tombs like pregnant

bellies under an iron atmosphere. After the news

of your entrenched infertility, you anchor yourself

in the unsayable. You relinquish one dream

in the grief tundra for another dream.

You reorder your desires like ordinary roots

under snow-drenched fields, fibrous

and twisting, still living, still seeking water.


Brynn Saito’s third book of poems, Under a Future Sky, was published in August by Red Hen Press. A 2023 California Arts Council Individual Artist Fellow, Brynn is the recipient of the Benjamin Saltman Award and her poems have appeared in the New York Times and American Poetry Review. Brynn lives in the traditional homelands of the Yokuts and Mono peoples (aka, Fresno, California) where she teaches in the MFA program at Fresno State. She’s co-editing with Brandon Shimoda an anthology of poetry written by descendants of the Japanese American / Nikkei incarceration, forthcoming in 2025 from Haymarket Books.


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