Sophie Durbin

Human Trees Are Not Moved by Wind

Translated by ADDIE LEAK


The Mango Garden

Birds of prey circled in the distant sky, watching the Earth’s surface: nothing, just warm air and a hot sun that spilled its rays angrily, recklessly. Sando jumped over a stream of dirty water and walked briskly down the road until he saw a group of young boys squatting on the road, defecating on piles of filth. He paid them no heed and continued a bit farther, where he saw another group playing football, bathed in thick dust, creating a commotion as they ran after their small ball. They yelled excitedly, calling each other after famous footballers, bellowing frenzied orders and laughing. One boy whimpered over his scraped knees, and others stood outside the circle, cheering and whispering.

Human Trees Are Not Moved by Wind

Patron Saints


Part One

It was winter by the time Mina and I met. I was on my usual afternoon stroll in Garden City when I saw him coming toward me by the United States embassy. He went slowly along the compound’s perimeter wall, his hands in the pockets of his brown leather jacket. I’d just purchased some oranges from a fruit seller on the street, and I took one and began to peel it. Mina didn’t look happy, and I was unsure if I should say hello to him or not.

Patron Saints

At Basilica Notre-Dame



To say you cannot stand inside the sky and still see its blue
is a way of understanding longing. But here in Penne-d’Agenais,
my favorite lesson doesn’t hold: step over the threshold and
you are all in, Hail Queen in Latin exclaiming from its underside
above a carousel of vibrant glass. It isn’t ancient, but it is pleasing
for a Sunday. Nor is it really a basilica—just a church no one troubles
to diminish. Our guide jabs his thumb at the confessional smiling, and
I mime looking at my wrist, mouth, How much time do they have?
Nothing is very beautiful. They say it’s where a shepherd sheltering
in the ruins prayed for a goat and one appeared. Our pilgrimage is
for foie gras and wine. All day I think of how last week when I left
someone, I turned and they were still there waving. Of Plath writing,
The train leaves a line of breath. In truth, I’m desperate for a world I can
touch: limestone dissolving along the cave’s joints, parched earth that
extends the salvia’s roots. Not even we would exist without constraints.
The last time we saw each other, we had sex in the extra room then
made the bed to look untouched. You smoothed your hand over it like a
benediction. I crossed into the open air, your eyes flints of mica through
the glass. The far / Fields melt my heart. I would have left my whole body
there. Would scatter what was left over the plush acres of tobacco in
the Lot-et-Garonne, over the cherry trees hung low with fruit, to know
how it would feel to love this wildly, without purpose, and be forgiven.


[Purchase Issue 27 here.] 


Michelle Lewis is the author of Animul/Flame and the forthcoming Spare. Her poetry has appeared in places like Bennington Review, Indiana Review, Copper Nickel, Hunger Mountain, and Denver Quarterly.

At Basilica Notre-Dame

April 2024 Poetry Feature: New Metamorphoses


Table of Contents:

  • Campbell McGrath, “Hendrixiana”
  • Carlie Hoffman, “A Condo for Sale Overlooking the Cemetery in Kearny, NJ” and “Reading Virginia Woolf in a Women in Literature Class at Bergen County Community College”
  • Farah Peterson, “Daedalus in Exile” and “Pasiphaë’s Grief”
  • Alan Baer, “Orpheus”


April 2024 Poetry Feature: New Metamorphoses

A Good Girl in the People’s Republic


A Good Girl

When she stepped outside and closed the door, the iron handle was so cold, it felt like it was burning. With the basket on her arm, Fu Rong slipped her hands into a pair of cotton mittens her mother had made. She knew she would warm up once she started walking. The stone lane in the village was slippery with ice; someone must have spilled water carrying it from the village well to their house. She slowed down and kept her pace steady, leaving the village behind her.

A Good Girl in the People’s Republic



The summer after her senior year, Naomi flew to Indonesia with nineteen other Americans and signed a pledge to immerse herself in Bahasa for three months. She stayed in Malang, a city known for its temperate climate and waterfalls, and spent each day at the local college, learning to speak and read and write, piecing together the world again molecule by molecule. It felt like a second childhood, or like being reincarnated. Mountain was gunung. Friend was teman.

Jangan malu, her tutor would say, when Naomi hesitated. Jangan malu. Don’t be shy. In the evenings, she sent emails to her soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend, who was doing a summer internship at a law firm in Houston. He seemed to require a full legal brief explaining his wrongness for her. Apart from that, she was immersed.