Published by Ricardo and Isabel Nirenberg since 1998
She is sitting quietly on the median strip,
legs folded under, like an animal in a crèche.
Or with half-closed eyes, she could be
part of a Pietà. She’s been hit, it seems,
although I arrive too late to know. Policemen
stand awkwardly around her, unclear what to do,
their cars on the shoulder swirling red, blue lights.
I think of stopping, calling for my vet to come
with his merciful needle. I think of getting out,
kneeling beside her, placing a hand of comfort
on her head. When I drive home from work,
she’s gone, and the road is secular again.
If the word were a face,
the mouth might turn down
as when the ball almost goes
in the cup, or the winning number
is almost the one on your ticket.
If it were a face, not a word,
the eyes would shut briefly
with relief: “That car almost
hit me!” or “I almost spilled
the beans.” She almost
failed me; he almost married her.
With the dog hair,
dust and crumbs
on the kitchen floor,
I swept up a dead lightning bug –
the one who, an hour before,
had been circling the space
around the table,
blinking on and off
in what seemed
a call for help.
“Poor thing,” I said to no one.
I thought of capture
and release, but did
no more than watch.
life is brief for these
iconic fireflies, harmless
harbingers of summer.
Our own lights and flutterings
are equally pitiable things.
Sylvia Plath, from her roof,
dropped one by one,
a suitcase full of clothes. They caught
the wind and sailed off, taking
her spirit with them.
I am boxing up my books
from Bobbsey Twins to Bergson.
I’ll never have a mind again
for Plato, even Plath. I may not
train another dog, make a fine dessert,
ot learn to speak Chinese.
Those 45s from high school days,
the vinyl 33s of university --
Bach to study by—all will go.
Gandhi I might read once more,
marveling at the life he lived
with Bible, specs, and begging bowl.
Christmas used to be
a simpler thing. Kings College
choirs now sing old carols
with elaborate harmonies,
different descants every verse,
with tenors and sopranos in reverse.
Lights have jumped from windows
to entire yards to cover
every branch of every tree,
lie on bushes, blinking
mindlessly. Lighted icicles
drip from gutters and remain
in place all year. Blow-up snowmen
and santas in their sleighs--too much
for the eye—something
a baby would be overwhelmed by.
The mother, patient before
the hatchings, eyed me then
from her mud pellet cup
on the beam, wishing me gone.
Now she is gone. Her babies
rise up, necks awobble,
mouths opening like muppets,
and silently, strenuously wait.
Their need is palpable.
We are all waiting to be fed
by someone, and sooner
or later, we will be.
"True hope is swift and flies
with swallow's wings."
Joyce S. Brown's work has been published in Poetry, The American Scholar, The Tennessee Quarterly, The Potomac Review, The Maryland Poetry Review, Passager, Smartish Pace, Commonweal and other journals.
Her poems appear in Offcourse Issue #44 and in Issue #46.