Poetry

 

Reading Poetry to the Dead

once saw a witch

reading poetry in a graveyard. 

She struck me as odd,

dressed in plum,

a rose against the gray

that hugged the sky.

 

I almost missed her

with her legs

tucked neatly beneath her, 

resting back against a headstone

as she read the work aloud. 

 

I would have wandered

on my way

had I not heard Walt Whitman

and stopped to listen

to his wisdom in the witch’s

cool, purple, voice.

I could hear the sound of rain-

drops bouncing off of stone in her tone.

 

When she paused I dared to wonder,

“Why do you read aloud

when there is no one here to listen?”

“There is always someone listening,”

she said

as if she’d been prepared for the question.

I gestured about the empty rows of stone

silence. A challenge she accepted gracefully.

 

“Take the crows, for instance,” she nodded

towards the feathered thing, perched

a few plots away.

“I’m sure they tire of the crying

after a while. 

I like to give them new words to learn.” 

 

I chuckled at the thought but

the beast did seem intent. Knowing, 

blue, gaze trained on the witch. It waited

for her to begin again. 

 

“And there’s always the mourners,” 

she added. “Many of them

can’t help themselves. They come

and twiddle their thumbs,

unsure of what to say to their loved ones. 

So I read them a passage or two.”

 

“Does it help?” I asked.

She sighed.

“It seems to do the trick. 

Poetry untangles 

knots inside of us,

we don’t always know are there.”

 

“I guess, if nothing else,” I offered,

“you can always read to the dead.”

 She smiled a warm, red smile,

“Now you’re getting it.”

I felt pleased, like a schoolboy,

rewarded with a sweet

for guessing the right answer.

I’m sure I would have blushed

if I were able. 

 

I imagined the spirits,

with their translucent ears

listening

as strings of words filled their heads,

lining the insides like cotton. 

A wasted comfort on a corpse, but

so be it.

 

I sensed I’d learned 

all I needed when the witch 

raised her book to read again.

I turned and took the wind

back to my own plot of dirt

beside the crypt of the old poet. 

 

He nodded as I lay

against my headstone and spoke

for the first time in a century

as far as I knew.

 

“She’s right, you know,”

The poet professed,

Gazing down the hill in her direction.

“Nothing brings the dead joy

quite like poetry.

 

And there is always someone listening.”

 

Owl Mug

 

Last night I broke

my mother’s favorite mug

while putting away the dishes.

It clunked

against the counter and suddenly

it was in pieces about my hands. 

 

I felt a bit like that mug,

immediately shattered

as I took in the sight.

The panic

hit my stomach first and sped

up my heartbeat, spread

to my hands to make

them shake. I thought

“I have to fix this now!”

NOW!!

before she gets home and sees

the mess I am. 

 

I ran for the store,

3 stores looking for

glue, crazy glue

Gorilla Glue,

whatever was strongest.

I needed to keep it together.

The clerk was concerned

and I didn’t have time

to explain my shortness of breath. 

 

I scrambled 

to put the pieces together

but they don’t quite

fit right,

chunks are missing,

chips off the rim,

the handle is crooked.

My vision went white.

 

The front door unsticks itself

and swings inward.

Up the stairs, she marches

with her bouncing curls to see

how I have failed her.

 

She only shrugs

and hugs me,

and I remember. 

She was never the one 

I feared.

She was not the one

who shouted

when I couldn’t pick

my broken pieces up.

 

We’ve begun to speak again,

you and I,

on better terms and you want me

to forgive you.

But how can I when I still

flinch

whenever someone shouts

or breaks a dish,

when it all still affects me so?

 

I don’t have it

in my power

to forgive you yet.

Not while I’m still bleeding. 

That sentiment 

isn’t mine to give,

and it’s not fair

to the little girl inside me

to force it from her. 

I’m twenty-something now but I can’t

disregard

her suffering and the growth

she’s made despite it. 

 

I’m much stronger now,

and wiser too,

the combination trauma

often creates,

and I know 

what I deserve now. 

And finally

I have the self-respect

to achieve it.

 

I deserve to let the bruises 

heal completely

 

Before I risk my skin

for more.

Of Sun and Storms

 

I am learning

To have love for the world. 

When it is cold,

when it is biting,

when New England winds force

my chin to my chest, I think:

I love you.

 

When storm clouds speak of

dystopian ash,

tip the world on its axis and turn it

a riotous living snowglobe, 

I sigh:

There is nowhere else I’d rather be.

 

I have accepted that I

am not always warm,

mild or welcoming,

that I have been bitter enough

to split knuckles with my cold,

that I have been dark and windswept and

scared

to feel anything as soft as sunlight. How 

can I demand different from forces

far beyond my control.

 

I have always had a tenderness

for rainy days, when the mist

bends light between 

crystalline clouds,

sending whole fields back in time,

a sepia-toned photograph 

of some forgotten memory.

 

Though, for many years I revolted

against rough weather, wished

for warmth and blue-skied

stillness, I saw

my fondness for your ferocity

was always there.  

 

Oh, goddess, oh mother,

of sun and of storms

of mystery and life,

you have accepted all of my weather. 

And now, I understand

your insistence on storms. 

 

And it is in loving you, in all

your unpredictable essence,

that I have learned to have love

for my own untamed atmosphere.

 

And it feels

like coming home.