Nothing better to do than watch
each drop of Cytoxan shimmy

down a see-through tube
to anoint the chosen vein.

You could turn to the window’s maple,
smoldering in autumn sun,

to catch the precise nanosecond
when leaf detaches from limb—

stare down a likely candidate,
curled and tinged with brown.

A nudge from the wind
might encourage the scene along,

but even then, if the angle of light
isn’t just so, you’d miss

the shadow of falling leaf many yards
beyond the trunk, hitting asphalt

and racing toward its embodied self.
When leaf touches ground,

does its shadow ascend?
In these shortened days of fall,

I look for signs of renewal.
Look how the sun flares

bonfire orange and gold
as it clings to the west. Listen!

Can you still hear the freight train’s
burst of horn displacing the air,

after the last boxcar
slinks behind the farthest hill?

Do only laws of physics apply?
In old movie frames, I see my mother’s

young face, gardenia-pale
against dark curls. She is waving,

climbing terraced steps to a lake.
I reverse the reel at will,

my mother backing down
the stairs, then floating up again.

Copyright © 2018 Nancy Naomi Carlson. This poem originally appeared in The Cincinnati Review, Summer 2018. Used with permission of the author.

When someone dies, the clothes are so sad. They have outlived
their usefulness and cannot get warm and full.
You talk to the clothes and explain that he is not coming back

as when he showed up immaculately dressed in slacks and plaid jacket
and had that beautiful smile on and you’d talk.
You’d go to get something and come back and he’d be gone.

You explain death to the clothes like that dream.
You tell them how much you miss the spouse
and how much you miss the pet with its little winter sweater.

You tell the worn raincoat that if you talk about it,
you will finally let grief out. The ancients etched the words
for battle and victory onto their shields and then they went out

and fought to the last breath. Words have that kind of power
you remind the clothes that remain in the drawer, arms stubbornly
folded across the chest, or slung across the backs of chairs,

or hanging inside the dark closet. Do with us what you will,
they faintly sigh, as you close the door on them.
He is gone and no one can tell us where.

Copyright © 2015 by Emily Fragos. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on July 21, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.