STRAIT

 

 

[space between]

[neither here nor there]

 

 

 

               /  /

 

 

 

should’ve spoken to her

 

felt unworthy of her grief

unkempt  unclean

 

unready to accept what she had to offer

unable to extend what she surely needed

 

in that public space   filled with others 

I climbed the stairs away from her

 

 

 

                /  /

 

 

 

A necklace 

curled like a silver snake

between cobblestones 

 

its chain knotted

its tiny heart  scraped

and scratched 

lost by someone

  warms in my hand

 

its concentrated

weight lodges 

in the linty corner 

of my winter jacket

 

 

               /  /

 

 

I enter the rain

the rain follows me 

 

  and I follow a small child 

into the crosswalk

  his umbrella threatens 

to kite him away  

 

  his father strides ahead  

unconcerned  

does not look back  

 

  I carry the worry for him  

shepherd the child and his umbrella

across the lanes of the Avenue

 

 

 

                /  /

 

 

 

the dog goes out

   sniffs and pees

 

 then returns from

the outside world 

   its cornucopia of odors

     gutter treats

 

   and finds me at my desk  

presses the cold

of her fur against my leg

 

    she tells me she is here

she has been away

doing dog things

in a different world

 

      the rug at my feet 

         her other dream 

 

 

            [  ]

 

 

 

[captive]

[cramped]

 

 

 

                 /  /

 

 

 

Brother, I have to stop writing 

because the page is only getting smaller 

and I remain,

 

 

               /  /

 

 

 

An active-shooter alert 

rings my phone

 

and I must imagine now

the scene at the hospital down the street

 

nurses and doctors in scrubs

sheltering in some prescribed place 

 

patients learning of a new way

they might die in a clean well-lit room

 

 

 

                /  /

 

 

 

when I was young    pheasants jeweled 

the narrow rows between dried cornstalks  

 

and I was sent into the field to find 

the birds huddled in quiet community  

 

to scare them with my voice and body

flush their beauty toward the guns 

 

 

 

               /  /

 

 

 

the prettiest sandals

      I ever wore

had wood-veneer heels

and thin maroon straps 

       that drew blood

       when I danced

 

 

 

               /  /

 

 

 

I dreamt my son and I 

gripped a thin metal bar 

far up in unadorned air

 

our feet perched uncomfortably on a rung

we could have been birds

but  we felt paralyzed   powerless

 

we had to move ourselves forward

    so little to go on

 

 

 

               /  /

 

 

 

All straits, 

and none but straits…

 

 

 

            [  ]

 

 

 

[channel, passage]

[and then]

 

 

 

               /  /

 

 

 

an envelope full of trees 

was mailed across the sea

 

Gift it said  Three black-

stroked trees   spritzed 

with silver  honey-gold

halo of bees  DO NOT

BEND    The  parable

of the willow       met

its west 

 

          and just before

winter too 

 

 

               /  /

 

 

 

Once I tamed a feral cat

it spat and hissed whenever I drew near

we were terrified of each other

 

but she looked so soft   angora cream 

and ginger  unlike any other barn cat

I’d ever seen   I wanted 

to pet her     to hold her   

 

Her hunger broke her spirit

  no  her spirit changed  as she came

to eat the food I put out for her

 

each day a little closer to me 

until finally she was mine

    more mine than any cat 

     has ever been

 

I named her Schätze  my Treasure

 

 

                        

               /  /

 

 

 

            speaking outside my self

  my mother tongue sometimes foreign

 

the strait of translation 

 

      from one language to another

                          feeling into word

 

 

                     This is true:  a tree is made of air

            

 

 

            [  ]

 

 

 

[currents]

[visible and invisible]

 

 

 

               /  /

 

 

 

I couldn’t have known

where now my house 

was once a river

 

the loamy bed 

 slack-jawed peat

swells and caves

 

the sundry  calamitous 

   contingencies 

a season can reveal

 

 

 

               /  /

 

 

 

When it’s icy, walk like a penguin 

says my mother, nearly ninety

 

She demonstrates in the kitchen

her weight shifting forward

onto her sturdy black shoe

 

 

 

               /  /

 

 

 

I can do this, I say

 

I cast a thought from here to there

reel myself over its thread

 

It was first a thought

then I was bodily there

 

 

 

               /  /

 

 

 

Mid-recital at Memorial Chapel 

a woman in the pew in front of me 

      gets up and leaves  

        scarf pulled across her face

     she rushes down the aisle 

 

Buxtehude organ notes slather the air

         search for conclusion

      the stranger’s sudden departure 

   has changed the music

 

 

 

               /  /

 

 

 

I’m lost, he didn’t say

his silence filling me

 

 

 

               /  /

 

 

 

the blue wall of my room

my little yard

the stone path 

between houses

  these everyday straits

 

 

 

               /  /

 

 

 

I sit in a shiny metal pod 

in a moving necklace of others

 

boxes made of brick 

and wood speed past

 

soft green squares separate them

from each other and from us 

 

The man beside me says 

This is where the shipyard once was

 

They built ocean-bound Antelope clippers 

here on the banks of the Mystic

 

 

I move the word swiftly 

across my tongue  MissiTuk

 

   what  once brackish 

 swelled its banks

 

   now sliced from ocean

   fresh  tamed  trashed  

 

 

years  days  minutes  surge 

upthrough skin that gives

 

 

                       

               /  /

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notes on “Strait”

 

Dirk Keppel, a Civil War soldier, ended a letter to his brother with these words: Brother, I have to stop writing because the page is only getting smaller and I remain

 

The line, All straits, and none but straits, is from John Donne’s poem, “Hymn to God, My God, in My Sickness.”

 

The Mystic River in Massachusetts was known by local indigenous people as the “MissiTuk,” meaning “great tidal river;” in the 19th century, clipper ships were built on its banks and sailed out to the ocean; later, it was dammed.

Mary Buchinger, author of e i n f ü h l u n g/in feeling (2018), Aerialist (2015), and Roomful of Sparrows (2008), is president of the New England Poetry Club and professor of English and Communication Studies at MCPHS University in Boston; her work has appeared in AGNI, DIAGRAM, Gargoyle, Nimrod, Salamander, Slice, and elsewhere. 

ISSN 2632-4423

© 2019–21 The Lincoln Review