We were understudies for the goats
who were understudies for goddesses:

You were the light one, was Athena.
I was the dark one, was Persephone.

They frolicked in their mirror world,
the one facing the forest
from behind the barn, bleating
into an amphitheater of trees.

Year by year their home filled up
with castoff toys and in exchange
they taught us tragedy. Like those sisters’

our foreheads were dense,
interminable, above shallow eyes.

And all the while the real goddesses
popped olives in their mouths
and gazed down from a mountain
that looked like an overturned washtub –

Athena with her famous
gray eyes that could halt an army

and her sister with black eyes
that could spoil fruit.



          For Brita

There is a spark
in your body.

You mark it
with a red star.

Other colors follow for
other ailments,

but mostly
it’s water and fire.

You melt the crayon
down again. Water. Fire.

holding the paper
still with your hand.

But still
it’s hard to find the center since

the outline drowned.
That spark is a bleeder

and takes your body over
part by part. A fleck

in the deep
bowl of grief you grew from.


Mitochondrial Eve

        Estimated to have lived approximately 100,000-200,000 years ago,
        Mitochondrial Eve is the matrilineal most recent common ancestor of all humans alive today.

Please go down and thank her
under the arched branches
where she sits on her heels

arranging a circle of leaves 
for a good bed. And on the inside
of her skin thank the mosaic.

Take what little she has and
give it back – one piece
and another, marked with plastic

tags. How high can she count
from your sieves submerged
in water sorting her shards

that lay a mosaic over the earth?
You know the entry when
you see it, in fact

you’d recognize her anywhere –
Reclining in pain on her bed 
under a mile of boulders

always with the door open.

Sarah Rose Nordgren is the author of the poetry collections Best Bones (University of Pittsburgh, 2014), and Darwin’s Mother, which is forthcoming from University of Pittsburgh in fall 2017. Her poems and essays appear widely in journals such as Agni, Ploughshares, The Kenyon Review Online, Copper Nickel, and American Poetry Review.