Karen Solie | DUST

from Wellwater, a forthcoming chapbook in the Vallum Chapbook Series

Returning home from evening mass
in the big car,

they were like canal boats then
sliding through the loose gravel, in the back seat

she pushed my cuticles up
with a silver file not unpainfully

to expose the half-moons, she said
God put them there, he likes to see them.

An empty bottle rolled under the passenger seat
and back out again

as my grandfather drove,
one foot on the gas, one on the brake,

it was a clear glass bottle with white lettering
and a sense of the conditional crept in through the vents

like dust, the incense of the road
scrubbing the air of clarity, of all else but the demands of dust,

what you need replaced
with what you don’t, you are ignored

by everything as you struggle with it.
I was an empty bottle on the floor

of a church filling with dust,
a flame of dust on the horizon

like the one to which the Sandman gestures when he says
to the sleepy child at the window Look,

there rides my twin. If, pure of heart,
you’ve done this day all you might have

by one of us will you dream of beauty,
and if you have offended

through any of the thousand ways to offend
by the other you will wake from dreams of fear,

but as St. Matthew has advised,
do not be anxious about tomorrow, tomorrow

will be anxious for itself,
sufficient for today is its own trouble, although we can’t

really say that anymore can we.
No matter

because here my brother has arrived
shaking time’s dust out of his clothes

and isn’t he handsome
checking his phone,

its screen like the moon
in the eye of his horse.


Photo by David Seymour

Karen Solie is a half-time lecturer in English and Creative Writing for the University of St Andrews in Scotland. The rest of the time she is in Canada. Her sixth collection of poetry will be published in 2025.