Not a Single Cell Stand Still

Sonja Dahl

Emily Van Kley



Try as we might, we can’t
help believing heaven is up,
though the truth is we’ve

no purchase in this black ice
universe, our language
skidding from one nothing

to another––direction, shape.
The what of it: selfless,
unthinged. Also lacking

in edges, although scientists
like to say it’s a tattered
dress, always flaring

outward, if there were out,
in. We stand on the front
porch when spring comes,

our feet bare, scarves
solved cosines mapped
to hooks on the mudroom

wall. We tilt our necks,
believing we look up,
while in fact we’re turning

pirouettes in mad
overlap––orbit, daybreak,
galactic year––plus

plunging headlong
into a nothing so thick
it feeds itself with light

but never shines. Closest,
perhaps, at night, dark-
drunk, when we click

the lamp switch and hope
there is no one we don’t
know standing

in the doorway, and we
slowly come to understand,
while we wait

for our pupils to sharpen,
that whatever called us
stayed behind in the blunt

bafflement we woke from
and we are alone, safe
if not certain.

It’s winter––


the wind hurries by & I steal

some for breath. Rain beads

my wrist & chin, waiting

for an invitation in. I believe

in a heart I’ve never seen,

impassive empath

repeating its dumb ignitions.

It isn’t clear whether

I always exist. Crumpled

socks & cutlery provide

evidence. But parts of me,

barbed, ill-visited, go

missing for months on end.

The Violence


So the glass shifts on the edge
of the shelf

affixed to the other side
of the washing machine’s wall.

The spin cycle starts; the basket
shudders. Or the machine

shifts, the glass edges
from shelf to floor.

Something brilliant
stutters across linoleum.

What seemed single
admits its multitude.


Beside the city’s
little knuckle of ocean,

a tractor trailer
passes. The octopus

who frightens spreads
itself wide as a circus

tent, then gathers
its limbs, grasps away.


Soon now, one of the women
will starburst and a son

slip out of her,
at which point the other

woman will kiss her
will kiss him, and not a single

cell stand still––a body
must forever be made,

must split, must
shed and repair.

Knock Knock


Whose breath?

            Whose rock?
Who’s lit from within

and what struck? The room
     suffused with a color other
                        than light.

All deft & decorous
                        she smiles,
a tender denouncement.

Who doesn’t love
            dusk’s double
vision? Squirrels’

            barked pontifications
to the rustle of sleeker

rodents. Bicycle
            tires, pooled alleyways,
                        winter skelter trees,

their leaves long-lost
            to sodden lawns,
already half recast.

Break In


I’m not sure if gold, with its memoirs
scribed in blood & threat,
is the right hue for what you might

have seen through the cracks
of the plank cedar fence
with its moss & lichen hemline

on a dark night cold-poached
in mud & falling rain,
your mind full of mutiny,

brandishing one of its old
certainties––that of pursuit––
and you running up an unfamiliar

alley, running nowhere away
from noone in particular.
Yellow, more likely, that parceled

window with its steady light
through the cedar fence, a color
so primary as to be unthreatening,

which must be why you wrenched
the stuck gate, stutter-stepped
the cement stairs, scraped the glasses

from your own face as you dove
through the pet door and fell
into a strange kitchen, eliciting

screams from the women
on the other side of the half-wall,
panicking a cat who hurled herself

behind the couch and wouldn’t emerge
until morning. In that moment,
everyone had reason to be afraid.

Especially you, who’d only come
for help, but now couldn’t stop
the terror from curling out

of you, filling the room like a cloud.
Call the police! you said and the women
did, or rather they had already––

they kept asking you to leave,
but you couldn’t, not until the cops
arrived and grabbed you hard

by the arm, pulling you out the door,
so you left not knowing
that though they’d watch

the back door the rest of that whole
wide night, the women had begun
to care for you a little, saw no

need to press charges,
understood they’d been blessed
with the lesser fear.



So be the dress unfastened.


Stop somewhere.


Hold on to your haunches.


Illuminate the way dust does

stirred behind a figure walking

in 5 o’clock sun.


Toe point.


Sharpen your arrows.


Those who falter

will reap their reward.



Think of the spirits
on the shelf of the liquor store
at the corner of 5th & Plum,

their fine taste of petal
and stem, ingredients
never known by more

than two living monks
these past 400 years.

Think of secrets
guarded that long.

Think of the plastic card
with its raised digits
and mysterious black strip

which reads plain
as speech to the simplest

Think of the far stars
announcing their births
after 10 billion years––

the time it takes light
to arrive.

Think of what is deliberately
excluded, how it sharpens
the edges

of what’s kept.

Think or don’t,
sometimes you only
get sore reaching.

Start again.
In which direction?

Someone has sent
you something beautiful.

Not in passing.
And there isn’t anywhere
you need to be.



Sonja Dahl

Sonja Dahl is an independent artist, writer and researcher based fluidly between Oakland, CA and Yogyakarta, Java. Her longstanding use of and research about indigo dye is what originally led her to explore other blue arts, including the cyanotype printing process used to make her collages in this collaboration. Sonja’s artwork has been shown nationally and internationally. Her writing and research span topics from the significance of intangible culture in textiles worldwide, to the importance of nongkrong (an Indonesian word for non-goal-oriented hanging out) in sustaining mutually supportive relationships in the contemporary arts. She is always available to nongkrong.

Emily Van Kley

Emily Van Kley was raised in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, but now lives in Olympia, Washington, where she writes, practices aerial acrobatics, and works at a cooperative grocery. Her poetry has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Best New Poets 2013, Nimrod, The Mississippi Review, and The Iowa Review, among others. She was the recipient of the 2015 Loraine Williams Poetry Prize from The Georgia Review, and holds an MFA from the Inland Northwest Center for Writers in Spokane, Washington.