Every pothole was a puddle on the day that she came, and rain
soaked the porch until it groaned. The screen door was a perfect grid
of shivering beads. It was her face
that I saw first, the alien moon-mask of curious calm.
Legs followed, a plump fuzzy body,
slender wings that twined like toes
on the dripping door handle. I brought her in.
In the midday rain the kitchen
was cabin-dark, and I thrilled to small feathers
on my wrist. I don't know
how long I sat like that, begging my skin
to remember this touching, this being alive.
I set her on the counter by the toaster
and watched her over my book, this marvel
of somehow staying with me.
Eight days we conferred together,
me with toast or a crossword,
she not eating, staring still. One sunny afternoon
the breeze was kind, kissed the dandelions
not unlike her crooked feet. The field guide was thick
but I found her there:
Actias luna, family Saturniiae.
Life expectancy: 7 days. Outside, the sunshine
laughed at my shock. I crossed the kitchen,
blew on the fragile jade wings, watched the furred phantom skate,
empty as a paper boat, toward the sink.
photograph by Chris Wright
Sylvia Plath, pale patron saint
of all this rising sadness, I must know
that this is the last life,
this unrepentant madness.
In Heptonstall the chalky door
of your smallest and final cocoon
bears the scars of the nails of virgins,
the glittery spots of dried-tear moons.
Someone has left you sugary sweet peas,
wrapped in thin pink paper. I hope
they did not wake you. I hope
there is no waking.
My mother is on her knees
in the late-morning sun, sorting heavy handfuls
of granite tiles. I have wandered
through whole rooms of claw-foot tubs,
played the patchy cat's game
of peekaboo around drawers
and kitchen cabinets. My mother's coat rustles
as she hefts the crate of stone squares.
At the cash register the light
is pink and green, filtered
through old pub windows
and reflected off antique hinges. The air
is sawdust and iron. My mother glows.
photograph by Caroline Contillo
The office is snow-fall silent.
As I pass rows of desks, fingers
are gentler on the keys, tissues meet
the corners of quickly drying eyes.
No one speaks. A girl puts
her sandwich into the toaster oven,
closing the little door
as though a baby slept inside.
On screen the crowd dispersed
in easy, graceful rows, breaking off
like plates of ice above a thawing stream.
Photograph by Susan Walsh - AP
You will take a strange journey.
In the night you will mistake crumpled Pepsi cans
for the eyes of deer. You will
apply the brakes. Around this sharp curve
a blinding truck with a plow, a sudden shock
of fog, and then the sweet black certainty
that nobody is looking for you.
You will size up each ditch in passing,
too much mud in this one,
that one too shallow. Your car will creak
and chuff against the dull grade
of the hill.
One wet mailbox
will become another, until like thawing fingers
you will rejoin the living, pull up
to the house. "He's here," you'll hear
your youngest sister say. "We thought
that you were lost."
photograh by Connor Tomas O'Brien
I’m for reckless abandon
and spontaneous celebrations of nothing at all,
like the twin flutes I kept in the trunk of my car
in a box labeled Emergency Champagne Glasses!
Raise an unexpected glass to long, cold winters
and sweet hot summers and the beautiful confusion of the times in between.
To the unexpected drenching rain that leaves you soaking
wet and smiling breathless;
“We danced in the garden in torn sheets in the rain,”
we were christened in the sanctity of the sprinkler,
can’t you hear it singing out its Hallelujah?
Here’s to the soul-expanding power
of the simply beautiful.
...I’m for best friends, long drives, and smiles,
nothing but the sound of thinking for miles.
For the unconditional love of dogs:
may we learn the lessons of their love by heart.
For therapy when you need it,
and poetry when you need it.
And the wisdom to know the difference.
The solution to every problem usually involves some kind of liquid,
even if it’s only Emergency Champagne
or running through the sprinkler.
-Taylor Mali, from "Silverlined Heart"
Hokey? Yes. Very. But there's a lot to be said for Emergency Champagne. Photograph by flickr user Little Princess
In summer, when every single thing
sticks to every other thing,
we lie heavy on threadbare bedclothes.
Through the loose window screen, the first note
of a beautiful breeze carries on it
an iron lullaby, a sleepy, solid embrace.
And behind it, stuck to the back window
of the rearmost car, the fallen leaf,
fall's first casualty.
photograph by flickr user Praveen
Worn white shoes draw lines
on the supermarket floor. Her feet drag
as her head turns, slowly, gray braid trailing.
Her gaze stops on the cellophane bag,
the mauve ribbons dusted
with fine wheat flour. Her hand
is its own vehicle, guiding the bag
to the cart before new thoughts
can emerge. The aimless stockboy
bumps her cart. She blinks,
her eyes first blue, then red.
The chili pepper pasta slides
back onto the shelf. His favorite,
she thinks. I don't
buy this today.
photograph by Alisa Resnik
At each tree's base, a carpet
of smashed ice, green in the young light
like broken Coke bottles. Concentric
circles around the trunk lead away
like melting waves, the shards
of crystal tinkling beneath each
creaking branch. There are
no trees in the graveyard, only
the wilted wreaths propped
against one illegible slab.
photograph by Tori Steffen
God knows it isn't easy
being fourteen. Breasts alone
are strange enough; don't get me started
on the tinny chorus of expectations,
the fire in your dreams. It has taken me
more than a little time to get it
but trust me, when you feel your heart thrum
strong and sure in your chest you will know
what breasts are for. When the king plants
an iris in the swollen dark earth, when your mother
lays your armor to sleep deep in the ground,
you will see how your brave bright love
was never the wrong choice.
photograph by Charlotte Miceli
for my mother
Just yesterday it crashed on the back porch,
snowy wings pinked with blood,
snapped far on each side. The afternoon
was cold, the night would be colder,
but the thing was dead already,
gone where frost could do it no harm.
I was in bed early, could feel the wind
pushing hard on every story
of the house. Twenty feet below
my night-numb feet the thing
slept sweetly, a thing
I could not do.
And then this blue morning,
weary already with the weight
of possibility, I went to check the porch,
which was empty. A fox,
I thought, a raccoon, can't
blame them for needing to eat.
But the thin shadow
of my mother's rocking chair
was fuller somehow, and in that shade
I found it. It watched me, warm, whole,
alert, and I found I thrilled
to its every cautious step.
photograph from Bats and Swallows
original Dickinson here