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Poems by Rose Strode

Two Days Before My Mother’s Diagnosis

She’d just come in, sniffling from the cold,

to call. She told me how she’d shoveled snow,

two feet deep, from step to street

and it took all day, but now her pain was gone, so maybe

she would cancel her appointment,

because what do doctors know? Fresh air and snow

were all she needed. When I scolded her she laughed

and laughed till I laughed too and I believe her

laughter is the reason I recall what she described

not as a story she once told over the phone, but as if

I am a witness:

Her back’s to me. She wears her puffy coat.

The pom-pom on her knitted hat bobbles as she scrapes the

shovel’s metal blade across the pavement.

The molten evening, pouring through the clouds, is magnified

in every window of my mother’s house.

She’s throwing what has fallen

back into the sky. She turns

the light



A Place without a Name

The cicada returns to the world where she was born,

the moving-light-and-shadow world, the world of trembling

sound. She crawls out of the silent ground,

uses the bark of a tree to pull herself

out of herself.

The males have already emerged. They flex

their tympanic sides like drum

skins being tuned. And she replies

with wing-flicks of reflexive

delight and maybe she’s surprised, tries

to do it deliberately

again and again, she’s so excited she wing-flicks

right off the tree, and thus by happy

accident she discovers

flight. Next she will discover

sex, ass-to-ass with a male startled

into silence. Imagine

a life of first times, imagine

her wide, wobbly flight

which will never get more graceful--

a first-draft life of awkward curiosity without

self-consciousness. And yes,

I believe that little explorer

feels delight, that wonder

compels her as much as anything,

that amazement exists

especially in those

who do not have a name for it.

Oh yes, I believe

this must be

what heaven is.

In January

The dog was sick and refused to eat. That long gray afternoon, I packed the snow

in globes I held for her to lick. The ice dripped down my elbows

and made my bare hands ache. The sun never did appear, so who can say

when day was done? The world got dark. Then more dark. The dog

died in my lap. We were both afraid at first, but as I stroked her back and said her name

she grew calm, and from her calm my own calm came. Each breath

I thought would be the last was not. When her mouth was cold

I put her on her bed. I fell asleep. When I woke it was morning by the clock

but yet no sign of dawn. I heard my dog make the grunt she always made

when she needed me. Then I woke a little more. I remembered

and wondered who else lives on in me. High above the house, robins

were returning to the places they were born. Compelled to leave

a world they knew, they flew all night, calling to each other: each one alone

and yet together in the dark.


Rose Strode is a poet and essayist whose recent work appears in New Ohio Review, The Florida Review, Dewdrop, “Beautiful Things” at River Teeth, and Kestrel. She is a master gardener and a freelance editor. When not writing or helping others with their writing, Rose rehabilitates overgrown gardens and tracks foxes. Her favorite tools are her eraser, her binoculars, and her pruning shears.

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