Published on Academy of American Poets (

Intravenous Lines

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.


Nancy Naomi Carlson

Nancy Naomi Carlson is the author of two poetry collections: Infusion of Violets, forthcoming from Seagull Books in 2019, and Kings Highway (Washington Writers’ Publishing House, 1997). The author of several works of translation, Carlson is the recipient of grants from the Maryland Arts Council and the Arts & Humanities Council of Montgomery County, as well as a National Endowment of the Arts fellowship in translation. She is a senior translation editor for Tupelo Quarterly.

Date Published: 2018-11-12

Source URL: