atop the pond;
a petaled quilt
So much depends
each blue vein
it has tapped
a living tree.
Letter from Ward Three
I am busy today watching my ceiling crack grow
green in plaster. My hands fold over the collapsed
melon of my womb; this is where my five babies
floated like pink letters in a mailbox. I remember
doctors in the delivery rooms, postured shells
in olive gowns, slapping the child until he found
his voice like a fingernail against the blackboard.
They are all that became of me, ribbons and shoelaces
that bind me to corners of the rooms where it rains
yellow trees and paper cranes beat their wings
forgetting where it is they wanted to fly.
I had some nice things once: a wedding band,
lavender stationery, a black lace slip. I could put
clothespins in my mouth, taste the clean wood,
and hang diapers in neat rows.
My fingers sifted darkness
like sand on the beach. Maybe you think I will die;
I am weightless as an old movie on the screen. I urge
myself back over and over
through steel wires like miners
feeling their way through tunneled cave-ins.
I am harmless as the back door of a valley;
quiet as a gray plowhorse
pacing these unclean tiles.
There’s a tied storm rising in the gulf. Thinking back,
I forget the man’s face buried among the babies,
the owner of giant fists, the climbing on and off,
the milkman’s sandy smile, my broken picture of Jesus.
Blood on both sides of my table, winter,
a piano with no song.
Naturally, I believe the boats will come for me,
or I would never invent footsteps
falling close in the night.
Once, I was young, a woman with enormous eyes;
the thing about living is hesitation,
the snowflakes saying your name,
the leaves gossiping, and the sun telling you
it is easy—that bread is better than hay,
that everything that needs you is real.
[Jeanne Bryner, from Breathless]
A Boundless Moment
He halted in the wind, and—what was that
Far in the maples, pale, but not a ghost?
He stood there bringing March against his thought,
And yet too ready to believe the most.
“Oh, that’s the Paradise-in-bloom,” I said,
And truly it was fair enough for flowers
Had we but in us to assume in march
Such white luxuriance of May for ours.
We stood a moment so in a strange world,
Myself as one of his own pretense deceives:
And then I said the truth (and we moved on).
A young beech clinging to its last year’s leaves.