And I am full of worry I wrote to a friend
Worry, she replied about what—love, money, health?
All of them, I wrote back. It’s autumn, the air is clear
and you hear death music—the rattle of leaves swirling
the midnight cat howling, a newborn baby’s 3 am
call for food or help or heart’s love
At the market, the green, red and yellow apples are piled high,
sweet perfume—once, I went apple picking in Massachusetts
a day of thralling beauty, my companions and I
had no desire to leave the valley—the plump trees,
the fierce pride of small town New England where a gift shop
exploded gingham, calico, silly stuffed toys
we stood within this shrine to cloying femininity of entwined hearts
and ribbons and bows like invading aliens, fascinated and appalled
and here too, people throng around the dahlias—
the last of the bright fat flowers. Open. Scentless.
It is going to be a very hard winter and we all know it in our bones
an almost atavistic memory with instruction—wear heavy clothes
horde food, drink water, stand against the wind
Copyright © 2010 by Patricia Spears Jones. From Painkiller (Tia Cucha Press, 2010). Reprinted from Split This Rock’s The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database.
I rose at the dead of night,
And went to the lattice alone
To look for my Mother’s ghost
Where the ghostly moonlight shone.
My friends had failed one by one,
Middle-aged, young, and old,
Till the ghosts were warmer to me
Than my friends that had grown cold.
I looked and I saw the ghosts
Dotting plain and mound:
They stood in the blank moonlight,
But no shadow lay on the ground:
They spoke without a voice
And they leaped without a sound.
I called: ‘O my Mother dear,’—
I sobbed: ‘O my Mother kind,
Make a lonely bed for me
And shelter it from the wind.
‘Tell the others not to come
To see me night or day:
But I need not tell my friends
To be sure to keep away.’
My Mother raised her eyes,
They were blank and could not see:
Yet they held me with their stare
While they seemed to look at me.
She opened her mouth and spoke;
I could not hear a word,
While my flesh crept on my bones
And every hair was stirred.
She knew that I could not hear
The message that she told
Whether I had long to wait
Or soon should sleep in the mould:
I saw her toss her shadowless hair
And wring her hands in the cold.
I strained to catch her words,
And she strained to make me hear;
But never a sound of words
Fell on my straining ear.
From midnight to the cockcrow
I kept my watch in pain
While the subtle ghosts grew subtler
In the sad night on the wane.
From midnight to the cockcrow
I watched till all were gone,
Some to sleep in the shifting sea
And some under turf and stone:
Living had failed and dead had failed,
And I was indeed alone.
This poem is in the public domain.
The faint shadow of the morning moon?
Nay, the snow falling on the earth.
The mist of blossoming flowers?
Nay, poetry smiling up the sky.
This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on January 8, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.