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ISBN: 978-1-62557-707-8
Categories Poetry

This Bright Darkness

Publication Date: January 2019


Demeter, Watching Persephone at Her Mirror

She slips out of her dress, turns
this way and that, cursing her breasts,

her stomach, her thick thighs.
Her eyes are crushed geraniums, her mouth

a study in sorrow. Hollow girl, full
of echoes. She pushes her food

around her plate, only pretends
to put the spoon to her lips. How

do I tell her that Man’s desire is hunger,
and we are built for famine. I know

she is trying to disappear, to transmute
herself into light. Air. But the girl

is my stock. And her flesh,
that tightly woven basket,

is built to carry the weight
of every harvest moon.

Persephone Resists Her Myth

I’m a sliver of light under a locked door,
a scythe, a parable whispered at bedtime,

my sex, the cure and the curse
that cinches me into this dress fashioned

from shadows, weds me to the moment
I was taken. Stop holding vigil.

Forget me. Let the grass green.
I am not a warning, the siren you sound

when your daughters, under guise of picking flowers,
wander out of earshot, whispering

He loves me. He loves me not.


With heartbreaking insight, Sarah McKinstry-Brown tells of Demeter and Persephone as the story of a mother who has lost her daughter to male violence. These plainspoken, elegant poems give voice to tomboys, girls coming into their sexual power, their mothers and grandmothers, newscasters unspooling the latest version of the “gone girl” narrative, pregnant women, mothers who miscarry, and flowers who give advice. In crystalline verse, McKinstry-Brown shows us girls like “peonies/ hanging their heads under the weight/ of their own blossoming and women who learn that “the heart becomes offal/ when a mother is told over and over/ that her daughter is just another/ siren.” This Bright Darkness is the meditation and the medicine we need as we confront male violence in our current moment.

-Lisa L. Moore

Archibald A. Hill Professor of English and Women’s and Gender Studies, The University of Texas at Austin,Exquisite craft and strikingly tender aesthetics merge brilliantly with the urgency of complex gender politics in Sarah McKinstry-Brown’s This Bright Darkness. While many of the poems in the collection reach back in time and mythology, the book could not be more essential and more poignant than it is right at this moment.McKinstry-Brown writes of a time “when a mother is told over and over/ that her daughter is just another/ siren, warning, a story to be taught.” And isn’t this time now? And how desperately we need these poems to teach us to know what is at stake.

-Stacey Waite, author of Butch Geography

About the Author

© Debra Kaplan

Sarah McKinstry-Brown

Sarah McKinstry-Brown is the author of Cradling Monsoons (Blue Light Press, 2010) and This Bright Darkness (Black Lawrence Press, 2019). Born and raised in Albuquerque, Sarah is the recipient of a Tennessee Williams Scholarship in Poetry from the Sewanee Writers' Conference, two Nebraska Book Awards, and an Academy of American Poets Prize. Her poems appear in RATTLERuminateSmartish Pace, Sugar House Review, West Virginia’s Standardized testsand elsewhere. An editorial board member for Spark Wheel Press, Sarah is the proud founder, curator, and host of feedback at KANEKO, an interactive literary reading series. She lives in Omaha with the poet Matt Mason and their two beautiful, feisty daughters. To learn more about Sarah go to hellosmb.com.

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