Brynne Rebele-Henry

Winner of the Louise Louis / Emily F. Bourne Student Award in 2015

 Narwhal
 

Strips of her skin on a ceiling fan,

Red, her thick fleshy white,

I make charts of its breath and the way it moves,

Tack them upon her skin and the walls, quake.

Ritalin fall and the birds give birth to tin cans.

Shudder, its eyes and house are closed now.

Fifty seconds, twenty-two pins and a brethren of snakes.

Three scissors, an orange, and pliers.

Its breath swims in our arteries like a three-legged dog

and we pass our fingers through its throat

and pretend it is speaking, moving inside our yellow.

Dopamine summer. She put them into a car

and siphoned gasoline, their breath and bodies

made grids against our wrists. 

It leaves notes under your skin in flaps

and we eat you in shreds,

moving your gums and teeth and tongue

through our rune mouths

and we call it a casting or maybe a cauldron,

when we slit our fingers into hides and blackbirds

and smear them into letters against the vacancies

she drills into ports inside her arms and belly

and now we're making etchings of its spit

against our mouths and legs and stone

and its breath reminds us of narwhal: their puncture

that tastes like iron ore and bloody lips.

line

Aimee Nezhukumatathil on Brynne Rebele-Henry

"Narwhal" takes the extended metaphor of this mysterious ocean creature and shows us in every one of its elegant and suspense-filled lines that underneath a world of ice, there is a fire. I chose this poem from the stack of hundreds for its singular command of an authoritative voice awash in delicious (and sometimes scary!) insights. The competition was fierce. It's been months and I still can't get this poem out of my mind.

Go Back to Annual Awards Winners' Listing