The hotel’s quiet as a teapot. The storms 

thirty miles east. 

Her mother’s sleeping beside her father, their bodies 

barely touching. She drops me 

into her left pocket 

and slips into the night to stand in the field 

and summon ghosts. 

How to ask her to be so still 

the desert flowers coalesce around her 

like sky’s chorus at dawn? 

She can’t. She paces the length 

of the barrack blocks

the dead weight of midnight like a sea 

she can breathe in. 

Her thumb and forefinger smooth my body 

for certainty’s sake but no matter—

I’m worn. I’m tired 

of their histories. When I dream 

I dream of silence so vast 

it packs tight the space 

beneath the canopy of stars. 

It bears down like hail. It threatens 

to swallow. What I have of a heart skips 

beats till the long pauses 

between them turn to ash.






September in the city—

sidewalks collecting a season of death, night coming on 

like a stream of headlights

at 5pm. You wander the towers and shadows 

with your long coat on, your blackest boots.

I write letters to the coming snow 

with a block of charcoal on the top floor

of an abandoned building: Dear bright white 

falling wings, dear winter madness 

and the ice brigade, 

dear children in red coats dotting 

the slopes of Brooklyn:

a soldier from my hometown

died yesterday in a place where the news says 

it’s always summer. His best friend etched with blood-ink 

his name across his chest

along with the dates

and a picture of two guns pointing out like wings 

to the beginning and end 

of human time. 

Dear Rowan of the valley, dear city in September,

dear man I recall for the blackest boots: 

look what I did for you. 

Look what I’ll do for you 

till you wake from the desert of sleepless dreaming 

and tell me to stop.




My father scatters his father’s ashes

alone in the Sierras. The light is fading fast 

like the idea of innocence 

belonging to a place 

and a time. In the hour of lions after dusk 

did my father sit 

waiting for ghosts to depart 

or did he drive to the valley 

where we waited with loose basil 

and homework pencils 

scattered around us on the kitchen floor? 

I remember nothing right 

says my sister. 

But I remember everything: 

the fire-smoke in summer 

descending from the foothills

and the way he always saved us

and the way he left us there to die.



BRYNN SAITO is the author of The Palace of Contemplating Departure, winner of the Benjamin Saltman Poetry Award from Red Hen Press (2013). She also co-authored, with Traci Brimhall, Bright Power, Dark Peace, a chapbook of poetry from Diode Editions. Brynn was born and raised in the Central Valley of California to a Korean American mother and a Japanese American father. Her poetry has been anthologized by Helen Vendler and Ishmael Reed; it has also appeared in Virginia Quarterly Review, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Ninth Letter, Pleiades, and Drunken Boat.