The Leaf Mask

Cassie Donish

        she saw real birds

as wind-up birds with intricate

machinery; their whistles, the metal


architecture of their wings—she saw 

them perched atop the hospital,

where exhausted women brought


catatonic loves. She thought,

all buildings are wild, inviting people into

their mouths. One day they’ll chew


the crowd to dust, spit out bones, watches, 

doves. The crosshatch of winter

branches: another production


of the eye machine. In that season

of patterns, all that mattered

was motion; once again, stillness


meant danger. A strong wind

blew, a leaf the size of her face

flew against her face,


covering it, and she did nothing 

to remove it. Right where her

eyes were, the leaf was slit—


Cassie Donish is the author of On the Mezzanine (2018), selected by Maggie Nelson as the winner of the Gold Line Press Chapbook Competition in nonfiction. Her poetry and prose have appeared in The Cincinnati Review, Colorado Review, Best New Poets, Kenyon Review Online, jubilat, the Gettysburg Review, Sugar House Review, BOAAT, and elsewhere. Co-editor-in-chief of The Spectacle, she earned her MFA at Washington University in St. Louis, where she received an Olin Fellowship and served as the Junior Fellow in Poetry from 2016 to 2017.