Dayna Patterson

usque ad mala

One feels the need in the end for hundreds of daughters.
—Carole Maso, AVA


Daughters to peel and cut the Winesaps, mind their slow simmer. Daughters to toast cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves. Spoon sauce to your lips.

Daughters to orchard your nothing, to broom encroaching shadows.

One to wash, comb, braid wisps away from your pale face.

One to sow mustard seed and chrysanthemums in your cavities.

One to tally your pulse with fingers of ice.

A daughter fluent in the language of flowers—dead-men’s fingers, herb of grace, love-in-idleness.

Another whose tongue’s stropped razor-sharp.

One to scrape and stretch the parchment. One to hunt down a swan feather. One to strip barbs from the quill.

A passel to take dictation, each word a white handkerchief.

One to tuck your secrets into. One to hide them in rib slits.

One to bioluminesce a path in the moon-stroked woods.

Four to check your pockets, hems, inner linings.

One to anoint you calm with lavender oils.

Daughters to boil the kettle, steep the sachet, test the preparation, to say when.

A daughter to ingeminate all the things you’ve left unsaid.

A daughter who’d remove her hand-skin, if she could.

A daughter whose likeness festers in a chest of lead.

Another who’s mastered the art of passing.

A daughter to wind your wounds in cobwebs, staunch your freshets, trim your body’s curls and crusts.

One whose husk precedes you to the family mausoleum.

One who’ll wear a gown of water.

A daughter who nightingales without hands, tongue.

One to whisk away your filth. One to vessel your excrescence. One to clap a mask to your mouth.

Enough daughters to wash the webbing between your toes.

And fill the golden salt cellar shaped tragically Baroque.

And sort and polish your silver souvenir spoons from Prussia to Siam.

One to windchime. Another to wind.

A daughter to open the filigreed box, forbidden.

A daughter to unfurl a rope of hair from turret window.

Five to kiss each vital organ, each steaming niche: brain, heart, liver, lungs, kidneys.

One to casket your ducats, filch your fortune, abscond in the night.

A daughter to cup a nautilus shell to your better ear, a conch to the other.

One to cupboard all the arachnids and raven feathers.

Daughters to apprentice the unspoken shimmerings.

Daughters to poultice the luminous hours.

One to shipwright splinters into a new hull for the bon voyage. Another to hoist the moonraker.

One to pray a fairy’s rosary. Another to dance, scarlet clothed, around the oak.

A daughter to crush each carpenter ant chewing away at bed bone.

One who’ll mother the motherless when you’re gone, who’ll garden mattresses of muskrose and eglantine.

One who’ll shuck her holier-than-thou for grey-er good.

Seven for each last day.

Twelve for every last month.

One to be your devouring mouth and another to devour every part of you not yet devoured.

One to erase your scar edges.

One to lullaby the exploding seconds.

Enough daughters to oubliette your self-inflicted scabs.

One to roll hot slugs of glass into marbles with spun cores for your eyes. Inside, twists of white tornado.

Enough to voice all the poems folded in the field of your larynx, to folio from memory your life’s work.

One to siphon off the liquid dark.

One to feel out the sylvan fetch between here and there.

One to lantern the underneath, to illumine the chthonic taproot.

A daughter to impatience you forward. Another to prick the sides of your descent. A third to lariat you back.

Your favorite expiring in your arms as the mind caves.

Daughters with scissors sharpened for the umbilicus untethering.

One to kneel and beg a blessing as you turn to stone.

One to tuck a gold coin under your tongue.

Six to sieve motes from the lateral light, to alembic what remains in the room, what flies up last.

A dozen to swallow a sea of sobs. Seven to sow your ash and bone.

A century to keen you gone.


Writer, editor, and logophile, Dayna Patterson makes her home in the Pacific Northwest. She earned her MFA from Western Washington University, where she served as the managing editor of Bellingham Review. She is the poetry editor for Exponent II Magazine and the founding editor-in-chief of Psaltery & Lyre. Her literary obsessions include poetry and spirituality, and women in Shakespeare. She has a terrible sweet tooth–and the cavities to prove it!–which she (mostly) satiates with mochas and dark chocolate.

 … return to Issue 10.1 Table of Contents.