Tani Arness | 3 poems


If the forest we live in grew maps out of light,
we might finally know where to go from here.
I reach out for you
and I am not sure if you are clinging to me
or to the wild ostrich racing across
this continent of flowers.
Every time you look forward, worried of future,
I gaze downward to find my own feet again
and what layer of world this is,
all seeds and bloomings . . .

If I were both bird and woman,
I would soar right into the center of what beautiful is,
I would grow love large as tropical flowers;
There would be nothing that could not grow around me
wearing sky like capes, and time like songbirds.

But I am only part, and broken amongst bigger parts,
and I am struggling to hold you who are also
only half of who you may become.
The world is bigger than our maps.
The flowers, bigger than me, cannot ornament my hair.
Nothing here is permanent.
Do not try to hold onto any mountain.
This part is called flight—

My Name

My name is Tani. It means forest, fairy, south pacific love song.
It means, farm, fish, fjord,
sister, middle child, don’t be a cry baby.
My name means little blonde girl
and little blonde girl with a gun.
It means wait until it stops raining,
and you’ve got ten minutes to finish counting stars.

Sometimes my name means waiting,
love in waiting, tears in waiting,
my love written into the lyrics of a south pacific island song.

My name is a name of oceans
large ships traversing tides,
strangers showing up uninvited into native lands.
My name is buying and trading history and mythology,
looking for a farm to call home,
a boat to call home,
a history to keep and not be afraid of.
My name was carried by bullies and martyrs,
cold hearted kings drunk on moonshine whisky
and crumbling wives drunk on tears.
My name is white borrowing brown,
a desire for some other time and place,
a fear of losing what you thought you had.
My name is breaking borders,
slipping twenties to the border guard,
apologizing for the inconvenience and the ignorance
and the way metal looks when held up to the sun.

My name is still an island song from a beach full of moonlight strings.
It does not want to own the land it walks on anymore.
My name is a river through the cedar trees,
it smooths the stones and blesses the sand.

My name, a shamanic healing of rattling and landforms,
three old ladies standing on the hill overlooking.
My name means night comes and deer run through snowy blue moonlight,
and no one is saying thank you except the silence.
My name means Scared, and there is nothing timid about water drops.

My name is a forest fire averted by rain
and it’s nobody’s fault and there’s a god somewhere out there singing.


Autumn is a leap into wind,
not a color but a dream of color.
Everywhere I turn, I feel my father’s death.
Autumn is not a yellow resignation
but a capoeira dance of shadows.
We organize our movements into seasons,
and still it is queer, my father’s dying,
his need tossing about in the same autumn breeze as mine.

The seasons turn and fall and pull us forward,
each yellow leaf piling into history
before the snow comes whispering
about how we need cleansing, we need beauty.
It is insatiable this need to live,
battling this need to die.
I kiss the dirt I walk on,
no answer to the questions
jumping and twisting into winter fires.

Tani Arness

Tani Arness grew up in the small town of Poulsbo, Washington. After travelling in her twenties through over 30 different countries, living in Seattle, Zimbabwe and rural Alaska, Tani settled in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Tani is currently the Principal of a high school. She strives to find a balance, living, writing and teaching while remaining dedicated to seeking the beauty and spirit in our migrations. A collection of her poems can be found in Tzimtzum: 5 contemporary poets lend us their hearts by Mercury Heartlink Press, 2013. Her poetry can also be found in numerous literary magazines including North American Review, Red Rock Review, and Crab Orchard ReviewVisit her website.

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