Chryss Yost







The Compulsion to Map

Though wrong, the atlas will outlast us.

While the lines define the gone Bombay

and Persia nuzzles the Khazar Sea,

this map insists the vanished

still exist, known by fading names.

It was true, but isn’t, snapshot of a fact

evaporating. Constantinople licking Marmara,

speaking Turkish, Farsi, Greek.


No exception, the map of your own tongue—

regions once labeled savory, sour, tart

melt away and shift like any myth:

bitterness that lurks deep in the throat

salted like the edges of the sea,

tongue that flavors the voice,

sweetness that looses the jaw,

words that entered the world

singing their own names.




Flame Lessons 

Maybe kindling

is a kind of kindness,

another way of warming.


And maybe kin

are a kind of kiln,

a womb, the cured clay


hardened in fire,

can break but cannot



What was culled

was weak and incandescent

like a strange kiss.


Ash and sweeping,

spectacular sunsets.

All that’s left of fire.




I offer you these things, my living lord:

wildflowers baked in heavy bread,

a bouquet made of broken meadow birds,

a sculpture of the lovers’ boats for rent

along the swirling edges of Charybdis—

one version of me waiting in each bow.


Uncarve me from this simple single skin,

your kisses, cupcakes hiding nail files,

the hinges from a dozen doors, and this

I offer you with open, floured hands—

to you, my purpose and my truest mate,

baking, waiting, lunging at the gate.












Chryss Yost in the author of Mouth & Fruit (where these poems were previously published). She is a Santa Barbara Poet Laureate (2013-15), co-editor of Gunpowder Press, director of the Santa Barbara Poetry Fund, and co-host of the Santa Barbara Poetry Series with George Yatchisin. She edited CALIFORNIA POETRY: From the Gold Rush to the Present with Dana Gioia and Jack Hicks. She is also founder of the Shoreline Voices Project and Sungold Editions.


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