© mary vollero, 2017

Mating Season

by Spring
through the window
water over rocks
and peepers
I sleep

Dream I walk through nettles
in a pink sundress
to river rocks
wade barefoot
with tadpoles and skaters.
He appears behind me
bites my pony-tail hair
we swirl in spiral

Till Glinda squawks

I run in the dark
into the deep
up to my knees
pull the jumbo duck
off my tiny sweet girl
her white neck feathers
stuck in his bill
his wings beating us all wet
as he retreats
I position the lawn chair
between them
between ryegrass
barberry thorns
and stars.

Finding True Love During the Drought of 2020

Part One

My horoscope predicted
I would meet my new love that day.
I was ready.
I was going out.
I knew he’d be there.
as I debated my sweater
the black wrap or pale pink roses,
I heard frantic squawks in my yard
ran fast down the deck steps
“No! No!”
flailing my arms at the gray husky
with the white duck in his teeth
made him drop her

Wrapped my arms around
her red bloody white feathers
her wings beat my cheek
till she rested her chin on my shoulder
her neck draped like a silk scarf on mine
our hearts pounding together.

Part Two

Staring up from a storage bin 
on my passenger seat, 
she didn’t flinch or blink.
I knew then, 
her name was Glinda,
the good duck of the East.

Fractured pelvis
open wounds
still as stone
not eating.
I washed her
purple skin torn sores
plied open her bill
for pills.

Part Three

Three days later
Glinda’s partner reappeared
all quacking and wing clapping,
she ate bugs in the grass
under the garden hose with him,
bathed in tubs of water,
napped on the high grass
between tree roots.
I followed her limping
down the dry creek bed,
hopping over dusty rocks.

Sometimes I had to stop them off at the path
herd her back to my laundry room
so I could keep her 

Part Four

Exactly one week after the dog attack-
Heavy rain
like slaps on the roof,
all night
through my dreams.

In the morning,
a stream.

She and he splashing, dipping, dunking
Me humming 
“Born Free”

Part Five

When it happened,
I hated that dog.
But now, 
even the dog 
that dropped her 
at my feet
is God.

And each morning
on deck 
tossing Glinda 
and sunflower seeds
I see Her.
Her white,
her silhouette,
her grace curved neck,
her black eye
locks on mine
and I sigh,
hold my quivering heart.

Spirits Speak on the Pandemic

Harriet appears joyful
wearing her butterfly wings
says we are in the chrysalis time of isolation
though it can be despairing for some
we artists have been in the darkness before
we can lead a journey back to light.

She says it’s a good time to plant flowers
and the animals are trying to help us now,
giving us little shows
like the osprey who circled above me today.

and of course Joey, the cat
joins me at the pond 
for the peepers’ evening song.
Tells me that that nature’s messages 
may not come in words.
That a ball is still a ball,
even when it is not rolling.
And I’m a good human
even when I’m not busy
running around, doing good things.

And speaking of good things-
Dad says it’s not silly to feel heartbroken.
We all want our loved ones close to us now.
So, it’s okay if I eat some sugar.
And even though it is difficult and sad
we will build a better world,
with less stress.
We should not forget
how beautiful it is after a rain storm
when the sun comes out.

And every single person is
important now,
like pieces in the puzzle,
gears in the clock,
working together.

He says,
It is always this way,
but this time,
is more important
than ever.

Stay at Home Orders

In the beginning
I imagined
I’d be hold up here
with my lover
for weeks
maybe months
watching movies in bed
boiling water
sleeping till ten.
But here I am
waking up with the sun
between cats
grateful for their taking turns
kneading my belly
taking turns on my lap.
Time at home,
an opportunity to learn to play this piano,
sort through the years of piles
and boxes stacked in the loft
and blocking the hall.
But, instead
I learn the names of the anchors
on the news networks,
the Governors of states,
Today my county’s first fatality.
I ache
for families who can’t hold hands
in the end
I ache for my mother
in her Memory Care Home.
And I paint
so far,
a dozen big paintings
all close ups of dead trees
gnarly trunks, twisted limbs
burls and empty hallows
sawed off, broken branches
still reaching for blue sky.

Finding Harriet

I can be putting on my socks
loading dishes
washing clothes
and I’m back in that dark house
finding her
in my cell phone’s flashlight
the navajo diamond pattern
of her gray robe
wedged between counters.
After I called her name
and prayed she had fallen asleep.
After shining the light on her bed,
after checking the bottom of the stairs,
after finding my way
between baskets, boxes, books, masks,
past the stack of tapes, DVDs,
her “Viva la Vida” print in a gold frame
my cat painting hanging on a door
next to the pow-wow jingle dress.
After finding the Madonna and a skeleton
dancing on a Christmas tray in her kitchen

where last she sat–

in her tall director’s chair
with her gold handled papercutting scissors,
notebooks, lists
wilted yellow lilies
in a blue glass vase
on the window sill
that looks out onto tall spruces,
sagging branches,
red winter berries spotting blotchy snow–
and poured McDonald’s coffee, two creams,
into her orange ceramic cup,
and her heart stopped
and she fell forward
neck bent
face hidden by her long gray brown hair.

“Please God, NO!”
Every time I see it.

But she would say,
“Oh, Thank God! (who is a woman)
I wanted to go quick!
After dancing at Elk Creek,
After Carmen, champaign and cake.
Quick as a whistle
and stomping my feet
in red cowboy boots.”

Planning Meeting

The Dean of Education said
We do not need offices or books anymore.
My voice cracked when I asked,
Are we really having this conversation?
I’m embarrassed
at the depth of my feelings
my lack of acceptance
my lack of understanding.
Budget limitations
restricted funds
I look up at the screen
eyes glaze over
cost savings
I pretend I’m taking notes
but really
I’m writing this poem.
My voice cracks even when I am not speaking.
My eyes glaze again.
Do not question
where we wake up
each morning
over a book of poems
with bird drawings
I bought before
you kissed my hand
and the voices
in the air say
I say
I say to you.


On my way home
I stopped for gas
ate most of a bag of
sour cream and onion chips
in the parking lot.
Till I felt sick and
mad at myself.
A boy called to talk about an orange light
in an orange sky
a full moon
a crazy dog
while I finished the chips
and hated myself
So I called my love
who isn’t actually mine
but is a thousand miles away
and doesn’t answer.

I fell asleep with a kitten on my heart
and dreamed I confessed
that my mouth was full of potato chips
and I was fat, which explained everything.

In the morning dream, thank God,
I was in Italy.
A large man in a white chef’s suit and hat
wrapped two sprinkle cookies with white icing,
in white paper,
tied with a white ribbon.
Two ricotta cookies,
Two lemon drop.
“Two of your healthiest fig filled cookies, please,
even if they don’t taste as good,
and tie a bow for my love.”


At sunset under blue herons circling
we gasp
how light they must be
on the highest tree top twigs
that do not bend
when pull their wings in
and stretch their necks up
to land
as we lean
into the fence to see…
…My God
a heron stuck in a fish net
she fights then freezes
gets more tangled
with every step we make
her wings more mangled
and I panic
that struggle
before letting go.

A Miracle

Even though he’s been gone
for near nine months now,
I dreampt my cat Joey died.
He was on his side, bloody.
His insides removed,
a failed attempt to save him.
I carried him gently to the tub.
Rinsed his paws,
his soft white belly fur
blood fading pink in warm running water.
Then his legs began to twitch.
I told myself it must be some sort of reflex.
But, he grew heavier,
squirmed, turned to me
with his gorgeous gold eyes.
Snuggled on my neck
like when first we met.
I held him tight
as I asked you
and my Dad
and my Mom
and Nancy and Sue
if it was really true.

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