Vessel to a welcoming land: The poetry of Linnea Nelson

By Linnea Nelson


Prayers to the God of Marionberries 

Let the blinking birds come
through the winds
of the sifter unharmed and let me
see movement return
to their wings as I cast them
into the air.

Let the berries I throw
from swift belt to bucket
be right for the bucket:
shriveled or unripe.

God, there is so much
fruit everywhere
that I do not trust
my hands.

God of sweetness,
God of bruises,
God of a million
dark symmetries,
sudden summer harvest,
hybrid, high
in vitamin C,

God of too green to be done
God of falling
God of rained-on,
sunwards, clinging,
God of still
a little red,
God of prickly, severed
stem, only perfect
for one day,

God, if you make me
strong again, keep me
grasping for slugs, and thorns, and these.



Instructions for Preservation

           Wedding dress, 1947— sewed by the bride using material from the parachute that saved her groom’s life.
           Costume Collection of the National Museum of American History, Smithsonian

Now that you have taught yourself the art of repurposing dread.

Now that your fingers can make again.

Now that sirens do not awaken you to remind you that you are alone, detach the train you made so long it could be a shroud for two bodies, and fold it away.


Take the gown to the brightest room.

Let the light find any imperfections.

Remove what you can with water and a cotton cloth.

Leave what remains to its remaining.


Let the thing be a sail, swollen with speed.

Never think empty, never anything but a vessel to welcoming land.


Pack it in lavender.

Years in the future, when you hold up the aging threads, you will first remember waiting: telephones ringing but never in your house, skies suggesting nothing, your parents hiding the newspapers, their daily call for surrender.

And then you will smell lavender.

The billows won’t seem the color of bone.


Tell him everything is safe in its place.

The chest is locked, the dress is dry and smoothed and rests between gossamer layers of lace, in a room where feet tread rarely and gently.


You are not the parachute, not the ground, not the sky, not the body falling from it, towards you.


What you made of this fabric, you keep.

Linnea Nelson is a second year MFA candidate in poetry at Oregon State University, where she teaches composition and poetry writing. A graduate of North Dakota State University, she is a former Editor-in-Chief of NDSU’s literary journal, Northern Eclecta. Her poetry has appeared in Gold Man Review, The Adirondack Review, San Pedro River Review, Tule Review, The New Writer, and Tribeca Poetry Review, among other publications. In a very recent past life, Linnea worked in Metz, France, as a language assistant at high schools and continued education institutions.

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