Shannon Nakai


Walking in-step
to the fall of rain, to the pace of thoughts
to my husband’s hands kneading music
on the keys, Rachmaninoff’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini

          drilling the right hand to play in 4/4, common time
          willing the left hand to play in 3/4, the waltz
          the practiced tension of time, the dissonance of rhythm

and I keep time in the kitchen
loyally waiting, rapturously listening
with one hand to my heart
and the other to the taut pull of stomach

          that later this afternoon will be anointed with gel
          and probed for the whirring sound
          of a heartbeat whipping at 172 beats per minute

against a deeper, slower beat
the bass against the treble
my own heart being picked up
and translated into the meld of two sounds into one.


A buck appears—
imposing shape
and shadow—eating the Housmans’
grass with stark effrontery. Its ivory-tipped
crown shines eight stars. Housman summons
his children into the kitchen. The oil
in the griddle spatters and smacks.
A breakfast parade of coffee-grimed
mugs, glossed eggshell, and jam
halts on the counter. They watch—
Sadie with her camera—the august, almost
human face beneath the ballerina arms
of antlers, circling its crown
like a halo. It bows
its sublime head, stilling the ghost breaths
on the window. When Biscuit
howls the buck sails,
legs sweeping on the tides
of an invisible current. Its white tail
blinks out in the mesh of maple
and yellow gingko. The Housmans stand
for a second—the beagle whining—
and begin stirring to life—spooning
the egg batter into the griddle.


Sky Chord sample

Sky Chord
The title “Sky Chord” was taken from the acrylic painting by Sam Gilliam, 1966.

We sit behind windshield wipers
          while a helix of lightning
unzips the sky—

streetlamps, sidewalks, cigarette stands
          in an impressionist haze
erased and reformed before us with each

swipe across the glass,
          water dancing
in the strobe of headlights.

In a sheen of sweat, in blood,
          I sit with you, sweet babe,
in the muted spell between thunderclaps,

pinching you to hear your siren-bellow
          rip for the first time
through the staccato

of rising rainwater
          against our stalled car
six miles from the hospital.

If sound had a color
          that could leave its mark,
then you, my love, offer up

a spangled cacophony—
          your breath the hazes of blue,
your screams as bright as the blood

staining the upholstered seats,
          smashing noisy purples
on finger-smattered windows.

A rain-filled world gleams
          reds and blues
as the wand of an ambulance light

passes over the now slumber-pink
          hues of your
perfect face.


ShannonShannon Nakai is a native Kansan, poet, violinist, teacher, and traveler. After graduating with a degree in English and TESOL, she spent a year as a Fulbright Scholar in Turkey. Currently she is earning her MFA in Creative Writing at Wichita State University. She was a finalist for The Atlanta Review‘s 2015 poetry contest, and her work is featured in The Bacopa Literary Review, Touchstone Journal, and most recently in Kaye Linden’s Thirty-Five Tips for Writing Powerful Prose Poems. She lives with her husband in Wichita.