Fathom Mag

Of Wings & Dirt

Fathom Poetry Contest Runner Up

Published on:
August 1, 2023
Read time:
3 min.
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Tell me,
when did our bodies
forget how to dance?
How to move and
how to play and take wild chances
like our children do in their bodies?
Like the hills rising up to meet them?
Like the air breathing life in their lungs?

Lungs like gulping largemouth bass
drinking in the rivers.
Rivers like living waters moving through the world—
falling down and baptizing us from the sky.
Sky like sprawling blue mountains—
laying across the horizons like bodies.

Bodies we have forgotten how to use:
to be caught up in rhythms,
to be alive in the work,
to be bent over the land—
plucking heirlooms up from the earth
to feed our singing mouths.

Mouths exalting on Sundays
and lulling our babes to sleep at night:
“Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus,”
in the heat of the dark,
in the bend of our arms—
holding our children
who have not yet forgotten
the rivers.


A marvel, she is—
both sacred and stone—
sitting in my garden bed.
Her gray-white edifice
an ebenezer,
ever reminding me
like Jacob,
Surely, God is in this place.

My Mother Mary—head bowed
and hands clasped
in eternal prayer—
you are silent yet emphatic,
passive yet exhorting
as you speak to me
from your repose:
You must be in gardens.
You must stay on your knees.

So, I must stop to know.

Oh, I study her!
My mind (ever-working)
goes backward:
You were flesh once
and chosen, too.
You carried divine blood
in your womb,
the heaviness of prophecy
in your chest—
a mother to your son
and a fellow mourner
at the cross.

And here you are
with me.

A stolid form
upon the sodden ground.
Cement among the living:
the crawling Lantana,
the humming bees,
and the pink Bacopa.

Once you were
but water and mud,
mere elements from the earth—
without meaning.
Yet the artist
(somewhere in California,
they told me)
put you together—
erected you from nothing
but a holy image in his mind.

And I ask you, Mary,
Is this what God does?



One night in late July, there was a look
right here on this lone mountain road—

lit with headlights where I watched
the doe’s eyes catch and stare into mine

through the glass. And instead of
disappearing into the woods’ dark mouth,

I remember her trembling
and suspended body before

our truck struck her, soft-footed
in a moment full of grace—

yet stunned in the light
beyond her instinct to survive.


Then there was the satin moth’s hello
that balmy night in August. I recall

writing by the light, with the old screen
cracked open to the black cloak of sky,

and how she came in, transfixed
by the magnetic, burning glow.

And I remember the gentle whisper
of her wings against the bulb,

and how I could not make her go.
So, I killed the light and slept.

And in the morning, there she lay,
dead on my bedroom floor.


I have sat up,
and I have thought about these things
well into the early morning hours
when the world is still asleep.
And it is too much with me
to know—and not know—

who I am in the story,
or where to go
with this light
between us,
and what
it means:

the shining fires,
the soft dead bodies,
two worlds colliding—
yet never meant for
one another.

Kimberly Phinney
Kimberly Phinney is a national award-winning AP English instructor and professional photographer. She’s been published in Ruminate, Ekstasis, The Dewdrop, Amethyst Review, Calla Press, Heart of Flesh, Agape Review, and The Write Launch, among others. She has her M.Ed. in English and studied at Goddard’s MFA program in Creative Writing. She is a poetry editor with Agape Review. After almost dying from severe illness in 2021, she’s earning her doctorate in counseling to help the marginalized and suffering. Visit her literary community at www.TheWayBack2Ourselves.com and on Instagram @thewayback2ourselves.

Cover image by Nsey Benajah.

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