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
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.
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.