Elya Braden


Church of Nature


I bobbed in a yellow skiff
between blue glaciers cutting the frozen sky.
The skiff smacked the water like an enraged lover.

Above my head, white birds twisted, gamboling
in the hard light. A baby seal, downy and spotted,
lay still as a broken promise, its throat gashed open,

its hot blood steaming in the snow. Oh, church of nature!
Stern mistress of reality. The ugly and the salacious
march in two-step with beauty and wonder.

No forked-tongue of politicians, but the bold truth.
This rubber sloop my ticket to a new world
of sensation: the bite of cold I’ve never known.

I grapple with the smallness of my life compared
to this expanse of water and ice. My rucksack
stuffed with second-guesses.

I’m an enigma to myself: too long without a mirror,
I forget who I am. I long to reclaim the child
I was even as I inch toward the finish line.

What an ingrate I’ve been, failing to slather myself in the glory
of God in every moment. Uncork me, Spirit! Teach me
what I’m here to learn. I’ll bask in the juice

of a single grape. Don’t relegate me to a cameo
in someone else’s story. Here’s my chit for a third
chance. Let me be my own hero,

the Baleen Whale riding the deep-sea darkness,
the Bull Walrus, or the twine that holds
this world together.

Still Point


White sage kindling marijuana bonfire aftertaste
singeing the blackened grasses of my nostril forest,
roasting my ujjayi breath like marshmallows plumping
over patient coals, oozing thirsty heat down my windpipe,
water bottle floating in the cup of my peripheral vision,
distant oasis, beyond reach of fingertips
outstretched at shoulder height.  I am a road sign
pointing north and south, yes and no, hither and yon,
my right hand itching to cast aside tomorrow’s curtain,
while yesterdays dribble like dust through my left, my present
as tentative as my torso, wobbly on tremored thighs
stair-stepped over drunken ankles.

Words sprout curlicued in daisy chains, doodled
across my Etch a Sketch brain until my eyes shout:
“Be present!”, “Pay attention!”, “Now!”, and laser
black-eyed focal points into the oblivious wall ahead.

I visualize my mat-planted feet growing
boa-constrictor roots, anchoring me as I belly-breathe,
no, lower, breathe in through wrinkled peach pit nether lips,
ancient hands pressed together in eternal Namaste,
up through yesterday’s juicy tunnels turning petulant
with menopause, breathe fiery steel into sleepy spine,
imagine my luminous wings unfurling as I lift
my gaze to meet the windowed eye of ceiling dome,
invite the rising sun to crown me with its light,
and raise my arms to heaven, my body still, still at last.




Elya Braden took a long detour from her creative endeavours to pursue an eighteen-year career as a corporate lawyer and entrepreneur. She is now a writer and collage artist living in Los Angeles where she leads workshops for writers. Her work has appeared in Causeway Lit, Forge, Linden Avenue, poemmemoirstory, Rat’s Ass Review, Shark Reef, Willow Review and elsewhere. You can find her online at www.elyabraden.com.