Five winters in a row, my father knuckles

the trunk of his backyard pine

like he’s testing a watermelon.

He scolds smooth patches

where bark won’t grow,

breaks branches

to find them hollow.

He inhales deeply

and the pine tree has lost

even its scent. He grieves

in trees— my father, the backyard

forest king, the humble

king. The dragging his scepter

through the darkness king.

The wind splits him into shivers.

Rivers of stars

don him like a crown. My king

who won’t lay his tenderness down

trembles into the black

unable to stop

his kingdom from dying.

I have failed to quiet

the animal inside him.

If only I would

take his hand.

This man weeping

in the cold,

how quickly I turn

from him.

Copyright © 2017 by Hafizah Geter. “The Widower” originally appeared in Court Green. Reprinted with permission of the author.


Slapped the man’s face, then slapped it again,

broke the plate, broke the glass, pushed the cat

from the couch with my feet. Let the baby

cry too long, then shook him,

let the man walk, let the girl down,

wouldn’t talk, then talked too long,

lied when there was no need

and stole what others had, and never

told the secret that kept me apart from them.

Years holding on to a rope

that wasn’t there, always sorry

righteous and wrong. Who would

follow that young woman down the narrow hallway?

Who would call her name until she turns?

Copyright © 2017 by Marie Howe. From Magdalene​ (W. W. Norton, 2017). Used with permission of the author.