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poems

© mary vollero, 2017

A Familiar Song

A cicada got in
under the screen door
loud and ugly
mad bashing against the light bulb.

Has it really been seventeen summers
since I swept their dry web wings
off my sidewalk?

My arms float up in the tub
hands heavy and light
holding water
under my palms

I’m not starving, am I?

I didn’t weep, did I?
While we weren’t really doing it, were we?
Though your arms were tight around me
when you whispered on my neck
cicada screamed outside
from the trees.

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Sighting

An open road
and empty head
after bank, gas, cat food, bread
a thought came clear
Just let go.
caused my eyes to blur
and pull over
by the corn field
to big black wings
white tail, white head
pushing off a bare branch
heading for the hills.

eagle sm copy

Okay. You be the Mom

I want to tell you what happened Sunday
when I went to see Mom
although it was nothing really
I wrote it all down
afraid I might forget

How when I arrived
she was doing laps in the halls
so fast she was out of breath
till she saw me
Opened arms and said,
“Oh sister, my sister,
how we miss each other!”

She leans now
closer to the ground
like she might fall with each step
but keeps going around
up and down the halls
always making a pit stop in the lobby though
where Nick parks his wheel chair to watch her pass
he’s been her sweetheart since Dad died.

Last month when Nick turned 99
we took them out for Italian
he told us how he landed in Normandy
his nose in the mud and blood
everyone dying around him
he says,
“He spent his life wondering why God saved him
till he met my mom.”

Now he tells me to take care of her.
Who will make sure she eats
has two creams in her coffee
takes her medicine?
Mom leans over even more
to kiss him on the top of his head
“Oh don’t worry, you’re getting better!”
Makes us all cry.
So, we walk again

I’m scared when I see her, in me
how much I forget
but I can’t forget
how scared she was
in the elevator
in the car
– we had to go back after only one block.
every trip to the bathroom
a nightmare of fear.
Till she saw the photo of my Dad,
on the mirror
and she said
“WOW! He’s mine, not yours!”

I am afraid I might forget
how when I spooned her apple sauce
she said
“Okay, you be the mom now.”
and opened her mouth.
Told me I had pretty hair
and that
I smile too nice.
And when she said it
she got teary
which made me cry
and she said “Oh you do this too?”
and we sat there in the dining room
weeping together
and though the server didn’t seem to notice
she left a stack a napkins as she passed.
at some point she said
“Okay, lets be happy now”
so we were
especially when they brought the ice cream
and she asked
“How could it be
that I never had such a wonderful thing
as this vanilla ice cream?
Really how could it be?”

And how could it be
when we went out to sit on the bench
an indigo bunting made a stop on the fence
she pointed at him
how beautiful
and my shirt with pink flowers
and the sky
the tree in the parking lot

See,
she taught me
to see.

At bedtime she kept sitting up
getting up
petting her cat that wasn’t there
till I crawled in the bed with her
rubbed her back
said the prayer she used to say to me growing up
“Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the lord my soul to keep,
If I should die before I wake,
I pray the lord, My soul to take.”
She whispered back thank yous
and please do not go
Though I knew she wasn’t really talking to me anymore
when she said
“Thank you,
I know, 
it wont be long,
I love you too, Honey.”

Bluebirds

When you were here
I forgot to water my plants, feed the birds
your going, moving, here and there
building, making, painting this and that
days ended in a crash on the carpet
with favorite songs
tub soaks, back rubs
make the most of this time
because you’ll be leaving
too soon
kind of love
till the birds sang
and we ate blueberry pancakes.

Few things are worse
than three baby bluebirds
dead in the nest
their heads all pecked
while their mom cries
on the clothes line
not even that you’re gone again
and I’m on the bridge
looking down into the water
for fish, crayfish, tadpoles, skimmers,
anything that lives I guess
when I hear a birdsong
it’s the Mom
rebuilding her nest.

If I Could Stay Put

If I could stay put,
If it were enough,
the house, the cats, the quiet
I wouldn’t need to meet a friend
have a drink in town.

If I had more time
I could leave earlier
drive slower
so I might not hit a squirrel
a mole or groundhog
darting out then back again
on the winding road
in front of me.

If I could see better
at dusk
into the woods
behind ash trees
thorny berry bushes
kudzu vines
I’d avoid the possum
and the deer
and the other deer
that looks me in the eye
as he steps right out in front of me.

If I could see
in the dark
the sky above me
just in front of me
I’d never kill an owl
flying low after the mole
on the mountain road
I take back home.

Lightning

a collaborative poem

Lightning and thunder
Someplace where rainbows begin

Kisses from above

The Hill

a collaborative poem

Sometimes we think we might’ve done it better.
It could be about the cats, but it’s not.
Other times we can’t believe we’ve done it so well.
Like the day the red peonies from my grandma finally opened…
But then we’re just doing the best we can after all
and there is the morning sun hot on the white cotton sheet.

I am in love with this view out my window
the round hill across the valley
shaped like an oval platter
overflowing at a thanksgiving table
green, green trees,  leaves
under the puff marshmallow clouds
moving slow on the flat blue

I am in love with you too
though I admit at times
I thought of should’ves
thought I knew better how
we could’ve.
But the blue bird lands on the line
between me and this green hill
and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Box of Chocolate

You read me poems about birds
mountains views
all the beauties
and even women
you once knew.
Rooms you rented
clothes you removed
in a hurry or slowly.
I cry stop
write a poem for me,
that doesn’t morph into doubt
or end in regret.
Spare me the details
of her
and her yeses and nos
longings
wrapping arms and legs
skin, eyes, kisses
lest I fall in love too,
with every woman you ever knew.
They aren’t too many
or too few
I would send them all
a box of chocolate.

Fear

At first
I couldn’t climb the old wooden ladder
round pegs to the storage loft
afraid I’d fall out the window
tree tops, three stories high.
Then, one cold night
desperate for my comforter
I braved it
froze at the last step
but only as long
as a prayer
not as bad as
the Vatican Dome
after climbing up
and up
single file stairs
to the sudden opening
only a thin rail
between me and 400 feet below
I backed up to the wall
slid to my knees on the cold tile floor
paralyzed
until one kindhearted
talked me back to the stairs
told me,
“It happens sometimes,
It’s really the empty space 
that scares people,
not the height.”

Today, I’m up and down this ladder
above those trees that bend to the wind
stuffing old blankets, drapes,
bedspreads from my mom,
too big, too small, jeans and jackets
into plastic bags for donating
tossing them to the floor below
each thud a relief
as I look back
at the empty space I’m creating
without fear.

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