The Exile

If you are the country 
then I am a prisoner
cast into exile

making my way
to our shore home in dreams
then waking in the north 

where stone drives me mad. 
Now the world is a free thing: 
formless and stark. 

Tin cans everywhere. 
Rain filling the tin then 
spilling over. 

There are no names 
for this— 
the charge of a river 

flooding the embers
shaking free roots 
of the oldest trees. 

Today my grief turned 
to a dream—a desire for home. 
The desire filled me.

The dream itself 
was its own kind of paradise—
false but perfect

bearing the details 
of our wild life, the spectral lines 
of a world wrung dry.

I could have waded forever
in the familiar dark
but I chose flight—

or succumbed to its leanness—
and left you in the river. 
Then I leapt into lightning.

Brynn Saito

is the author of The Palace of Contemplating Departure, winner of the Benjamin Saltman Poetry Award and forthcoming from Red Hen Press in March 2013. Her poetry has been anthologized by Helen Vendler and Ishmael Reed; it has also appeared in Ninth Letter, Hayden's Ferry Review, Pleiades and Drunken Boat. Visit her at