Hymn for Two Choirs
Best apple I ever had was three o'clock
in the morning, somewhere outside
San Francisco, beach camping, stars holding
the sky together like sutures. I was thinking
how I was going to get old and ask myself
why did I only live for one thing;
at the same time I didn't know how to change.
I thought I felt like my neighbor's huge dog
every day stuffed into a small man's green T-shirt
and chained to a stake in a yard of incongruous
white tulips. Here and there a red bird, a train.
Way down the beach other tents glowed orange.
I heard a stranger call my name
and another stranger, laughing, answered.
I Used to See Her in the Field
beside My House
Perhaps it is the way your nipples,
long like fingers on an open hand,
beckon the tire, huddled, osteoporosis-fearing
masses to your swollen, steaming milk sack.
The skin of your huge behind ripples
where giant horseflies understand
only that you taste good, not that they hurt you while you're looking
out to pasture through a crack
in your stall. Cow, listenforget
the deep pools
of rain that pock the lit, green land-
scape of your youth. Forget the singing
man who rubbed your head. He's readying the rape rack.
In the end, you're skinned and processed. A hip
loose, shoulders dismantle in the hands
of some masked worker. There is nothing
in this world that loves you back.
On this side, the pastopen-faced,
Where did they go, the enormous clams, and why
did they leave all these empty white wallets?
Waterbugs stutter the surface and scatter
away from the deep mud-suck of our feet.
Little satellites of trash dislodge and tangle
at our knees. Look at me: fumbling
over the details of her red hair, when
all I meant was to tell you something
about a fish, that hill, or the long blue
blade of dusk which has just begun
to enter the sky, and to punish us.
Lucille Lang Day
Does the Earth Forgive Winter
When the Black-Footed Marmot Appears?
Yes, mountains forgive the brittle cold
that dissolves with snow's whiteness and weight,
twigs forgive the long absence of green,
and trees forgive clouds when the sun reappears,
enabling new leaves to weave
sweetness from light and air.
When the black-footed marmot emerges,
the hands of a grandfather clock
can sweep past midnight, the coast paintbrush
spackles California hills with red
all the way to Baja, and I forget the clamor of rain
and all the terrible things we said.
In a Universe Driven by Chaos,
Is Joy an Elusive Refrain?
The refrain is a crystal
an octahedron of light.
Joy and sorrow exist
only in the throat
of a black-capped vireo
in a cedar-oak thicket
in west Texas. No other
North American bird
has white spectacles
on a jet-black head.
Still, we can laugh.
If I Am Outside Myself After
Is There a Way to Break In?
How did I get outside myself?
I don't even know how I got in.
It's not at all like entering a house
with doors, windows, and locks,
but more like finding myself
in a jungle where lianas coil
around fig and coconut trees.
Outside, it's starkly beautiful,
a desert where saguaros
reach skyward, Costa's
hummingbirds visit ocotillos,
and you take photos of me.
The nurses came from a tiny lit place,
the way I have sometimes pictured heaven.
Pain arrived sometimes like the shock of laughter, raw and wet;
they knew where to put their hands, they kneaded my hips.
The baby, with her crying and strange red mask did not frighten them.
They brought her back clean, they checked the machines
that monitored the heat and innermost workings of our bodies.
And later, like parents, hushed the dark room as they moved.
When I walked down the hospital corridor toward them
in my loose robe, in my newly torn body,
the faces they raised showed neither welcome nor irritation.
I saw that paintings of the pieta, the Madonna,
the most composed of martyrs
had all been drawn from the faces of nurses
in their composure, their faint sorrow, as they listened to something
distant even as they listened to me.
I could have been a soul just crossed over, a body risen from the dead,
and they would have received me no differently, they would have known
what I needed.
Birch and Gold
The lean birch is not ready to release
the few doubloons of light
scattered across the invisible web
on her frame, small fires
perched in the air’s nebulae
The capricious whistler flying by
tempts her to relinquish
these precious coins,
fling them off as if
they no longer mattered
what she has created
of famine and abundance,
blessings and grief,
the ordinary turnings that yield
bits of mica glinting in asphalt
It is late in the year, in the month,
and the sun squinting its eye behind
the buildings backlights the scene
Though their size diminishes
and their place in a global fabric
is no greater than
a shimmery pinpoint,
why must she let go?
Her tenacity to hold that gold
make her what she is.
In the glitter and dazzle
of vanishing light,
what she still wants
Gift of Rain
Motionless, a slender deer
in the middle of a rolling green
in the downpour;
we look at each other, her eyes wide
with wonder and innocence and
not even her paintbrush tail flicks;
she does not try to cross the road
where heavy tree branches offer shelter
but stands at perfect attention
to the anthem of rain
as if her gods were washing the world
cleaner for her, as if the gift of rain
compelled her to absolute stillness
so exposed and unafraid,
she causes me to question the guilt
I feel from the comfort of my car
Later, on the driveway
in front of me still as a snapshot,
a small doe at her side,
she looks directly into my face,
I blast my horn
unable to abide her brazen naïveté
and rev my car engine noisily
to impress her with the danger
her total innocence is an unimaginable
state both holy and reminiscent
of the way I once leapt into the net
of a predator, blind eyes open
with trust that a husband was family
and I could never be fair game
Trees fling their pinwheels
into the wind where river gulls
loop high eyeing morsels
the small woman
sprays from a large sack
of crackers onto a few square feet
beneath the parking lot tree
where crows loiter and
sparrows peck, pick up
and flee until the white gulls
swooping for crumbs
lift off in one cresting wave
the woman’s sudden
three times crossing
herself between rounds
showering her flock.
Horned Owls Mating,
Love calls floating beneath a crescent moon,
the male's softer than the female's. Now
is the time for soul to leap like a hare
in fields crackling with frost while those two
abandon their branch, drop silently to earth,
wings drooping, to stroke each other's beak
in the dark, the hunt for small lives rustling
among roots forgotten in their hunger
for each other on the longest night.
The tide swells the inlet, we mark this night
(O wild beauty echoing through the woodlands)
in green ink on a calendar that's about to turn
the page in time to the contrived tick of a clock
hanging on a wall we imagine faces south.
On Being Asked the Meaning of, Gloaming
Old English, glomung, from Glom, "twilight",
from prehistoric Germanic word
No one uses the word anymore,
but what it means is skin and flesh, bone and nerve singing
beneath childish summer dresses
my mother made me wear as an adolescent while every cell in my body
called like sirens in the long Irish twilights
where I'd loiter sullen among a few apple trees we called an orchard, ardent
as an animal in heat, tense
with lust for the world whispering I'll always love you among pointed
It means throwing yourself on the bed, weak with longing while perfume
drifted in from small gardens through windows
cloistered in ivy and bird song, and Tommy Steele's guitar jittered
don't you step on my blue suede shoes.
Fragrant as a love letter stuck in the back of a drawer, I waited to be
to the iridescent heart of the world
which pretended not to know when I arrived, though it slipped a memo of
into my pocket when I wasn't looking.
received her MFA from the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. She
has held fellowships from the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing and
the Iowa Arts Council. The above poems were taken from her debut book,
Mistaking the Sea for Green Fields, The University
of Akron Press; 2006.
Lucille Lang Day's
poetry collections are Infinities, Wild One, Fire in the Garden, and
Self-Portrait with Hand Microscope. The above poems are taken from
a new chapbook, The Book of Answers,
She is the publisher of Scarlet
Tanager Books . She received her M.A. and M.F.A. in creative
writing at San Francisco State University, and her M.A. in zoology and Ph.D.
in science and mathematics at University of California, Berkeley.
teaches English at Cal Poly State University, San Luis Obispo, California.
Her collection of poetry,
Likely, is available from Amazon.com and Kent
State University Press. "Nurses" first appeared in Cafe Solo,
Vol 1; 2006.
poems have appeared in Slant, Rhino, Madison Review, Mid-America
Review, Pivot, the MacGuffin, Natural Bridge,
Entelechy Journal and others. Her
poetry collections are Moving into Seasons,
To Face the Inscription and Made
Safir's review of The Poetry of Nursing
Geri Rosenzweig is a regular contributor to
ForPoetry. We're pleased to publish new work from her collection of poems.
Geri Rosenzweig's poems were selected for
The Poetry of Nursing, which won
the Best Book of the Year Award from the American Journal of
Nursing. Click here to read more about