Martha Silano

What I’ll Miss

Prob won’t be sycamores, a childhood of nesting robins,
peeling bark. Will it be the bald cypresses at Corkscrew Swamp,
the last three miles of a 30-mile swath saved from chopping and draining,

conversion to crop or pasture use? I know I’ll def miss
the return of the swallows to Seattle on or about March 18th,
the violet-greens, their acrobatic flights along and across the lake.

Also, though I don’t love the smell it burrows into my fleece,
the flames of a campfire along the Tieton, though let’s skip the s’mores.
I’ll miss walking, I think, unless what we do without bodies is more like a kestrel

in a dragonfly divebomb. If we fly,
and I think we will, I’ll have to go back to that suburb
outside Townsville to revisit the duck-billed platypus who showed up

on our final morning while I was washing our sleeping bags
in our world-peace hosts’ front loader, preparing for four more months
of hostels, bamboo huts, and pull-out couches. Do I have to say I won’t miss

tooth or hair care, those days the AQI nudged past 300,
the mornings of building towers out of yogurt and ricotta containers
when I would’ve much rather been jogging, swimming, or lying in a hammock?

Yes, yes, we will all fly, and the years flew
like a crested caracara just before the turn off to the last old growth stand
of bald cypress in the world. Yes, yes, the word is caress, and I will miss doing it

with you, and also monkeys and featherless chicks,
owls right before they upchuck this thing called a pellet—
the bones and the fur, which I also plan to savor, the gristle

and the chewy fat, the parts my father ate
so my sister and I could have the filet mignon,
which I sort of did the same for my kids (?), those nestlings

who fledged, those neotropical migrants who landed
on 33rd Avenue South, with their many markings – confusing
stripes, eye-rings, and so many permutations of yellow throats.

Orders of Operation

First thing, my hair began to weep. Wept like sea oats, the roots of which
are forty feet deep. First thing, my torso quivered like mud
in a 192-mile-an-hour wind. Like a seed head

in a Category 6, its vibrating underground rhizomes. One night,
in my bathroom mirror, I thought I saw my heartbeat
in my bicep. What was that quote

about a bitter heart? In the desert, I saw a creature, naked, bestial
A naked, bestial creature eating his bitter heart. What a wild image,
right? Liking the bitter taste Because it is bitter, the way an osprey

must love the taste of salt on its mouth as it dives for a fish,
succeeds. It must know that feeling of victory, of settling
into a palmetto, or perching at the top of a building

to feast. After a while, I listened with my eyebrows. After a while,
I listened to the sunlight in my pectorals and glutes,
the non-noise of sleep, which made me anxious.

And ahhh, what was this thing with my voice, why was it getting harder
to swallow and speak? When I googled, I found hideous things.
To lightly fly away, like a rosy maple moth. Slowly,

but not too slow. To flutter in the key of yellow and pink,
without coughing or wheezing,
without a bat-like resistance.

To go without weeping or creaking, without too much hoopla,
like these little precious creamy-white wings,
like these rosy-pink markings

on the margins and bases, which do a kind of breezy,
like oat grass, which does a little able flying,
then slows down so lightly, so lovely.

I began working on “What I’ll Miss” a few years ago. I forgot I’d written it, then came across it in my UNFINISHED folder during a poem-a-day marathon in February 2024. It floored me to find I was working on a “When I’m Gone” poem before I’d been diagnosed with ALS. How uncanny! This poem underwent a major rehaul. I was in Florida as I revised, so I had to add some Floridian wildlife. But it’s my family I’ll miss the most. “Orders of Operation” is totally inspired by a daytrip my partner and I took to San Marco Island, near Naples, Florida—the sea oats and the rosy maple moth, plus, yeah, a big nod to Hart Crane. Both poems address the issue of being impermanent in bodily form on this wild and wondrous planet we all live on.

Martha Silano’s most recent book of poetry is Gravity Assist (Saturnalia Books, 2019). A forthcoming collection, This One We Call Ours, won the 2023 Blue Lynx Prize for Poetry, and will appear in the fall of 2024 from Lynx House Press. Martha’s poems have appeared in Poetry, The Paris Review, American Poetry Review, and elsewhere. Learn more about her work at

Credit: Langdon Crook