On what would turn out to be Katie’s last good day
she asked to be wheeled outside & helped
into the Lazyboy her brother dragged out back
no one even bothering to remove the tag
from Costco that flapped, wild as a trapped bird
before the wind surrendered
to a thin cardigan of mid-December sun
as all afternoon we watched
her sleeping while the sky hemorrhaged
quietly down & the small hills of dogshit
arranged along the graying cedar fence
did not blaze into anything
like golden stones, but her hair had grown
back a half inch or so & so glowed
in the last of that tinny glare
& if I thought briefly then of medieval manuscripts
where everyone important grows a halo
it wasn't quite like that either
although the bones of her face did appear
as if at low tide to surface
smooth as driftwood where the injured
bird might light in the moonlight, holding on
for some measures longer than expected.
Copyright © 2022 by Jenny Browne. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 11, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.
Let me enter the afterlife lithe not plodding.
Rise out of this heavy peasantry. Lithe
and cool as a battery-powered flame,
not fire. My feet
are short and wide. The soles, stained
with mulberries. I have never been lithe,
streamlined, pedicured, compressed, minimal, ergonomic,
fuselage cutting the air.
In my herringbone skirt and shirttail out, I am a slob.
What is a slob but a knob of thickness, a mushroom
stem, a beer stein Mozart stole from the Hofbräuhaus while writing
My stylist, gravity. Memory a tree so loaded with fruit and birds the tips
of the branches rake the ground.
By lithe I do not mean in body, do I?
Do I mean in soul?
To be one of those green-eyed ones others refer to as
of ancestors. Face clean
of lipstick smears and other gestures of artifice.
Feet a rare triple-A, so narrow there aren’t shoes
that won’t chafe. Skin easy to tear,
like Kleenex we turned into carnations for parade floats.
Those drinks from the soda fountain we called Green Rivers.
Green and sweet, without flavor, but delicious.
I am too tired to hold up this heavy self.
Of selfhood I worked so hard to earn. Of work I worked so hard
to avoid. Of the working class. My class. Its itches and psychological riches.
Its notions and values and humble achievements.
Of this town which inhabitants speak of with endearments
as if it were a child. As if it’s not like every other brat.
Town with its river, drunk on itself. Its shitty Xmas ornaments
and fall-down-fucked-up Santa on a raft tethered to the river bank.
Its tiny museum
built around the star of the show, a lamb born with two heads.
Every town has a two-headed something. It doesn’t mean
You know what? I want to be rich and lithe.
Rich, with a lyric gift and a song
like a white-throated sparrow. I am vulture-heavy.
My stories are caskets filled with black feathers,
the lids pounded shut with railroad spikes.
The gravedigger is noodling Melba, the widow-woman,
and a hognose is consuming a toy train on cemetery lane.
Let me resurrect beyond the bracken
fronds and the three-legged stool and catgut guitar
and this two-ton song from the mouth
of a wax museum troubadour.
Copyright © 2023 by Diane Seuss. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 14, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.