Poetry


Hotel Vermont Selection, Fall 2015

Third Saturday in June

What we do to peaches in June:
            peel
            mash
            drop

With ice,
pack the narrow gap between metal and wood.
            turn turn
            stop, rewind the other way, 
            arm stiffens.

In the half-moon space between thumb and forefinger,
grown-ups cradle
            sweating silver and pewter cups
            for juleps.
            drops sliding.

Too young to drink, I work the ice creamer,
            refill coolers,
            spoon up slaw.

I scurry, clipping newsprint
            —sports scores, movie times—
onto rented fold-out tables.

Layer the paper thick to soak the low country boil:

            Louisiana crawfish,
            knuckled legs red;

            LaSoda potatoes,
            steamed and mealy;

            cobs of corn, halved,
            add shrimp and smoked Andouille.

All of it Old Bay spiced and spilled down the table like a mile of Gulf Coast.

I watch my father, dish-towel on left shoulder, 
            heave blistering pots,
            tong baby back ribs,
            dab sauce from the corners of his tan mouth.

He becomes himself, becomes the South.

The past repeating, a ritual I learn. 
The past repeating
cranking that ice creamer,
            turning turning turning
            turning blind eyes, turning cheeks
            turning children into parents.

I watch it all happen

third Saturday in June, 
as close as I'll ever be to a lightning bug:
       
            floating in and out
            aware and ignorant at the same time,

waiting for dark night cool with peach slices.


The Best of the Burlington Writers Workshop 2014 & 2015


Xunantunich
 

It took three hours to reach.

We crossed the river
by hand-cranked ferry,
walked among 1400 year old ruins,
the jewel of Belize.

The word means “stone lady,” Pedro said,
curving us up
the east temple side and El Castillo frieze.

Here, the Mayans sacrificed
their young princesses, whose blood
was worth the most.

Months later,
I started feeling the shadow of stone lady everywhere.

In your hair —lost in our shower drain,
the trash,
the floor,
the car.

I watch our baby tomato plants
throw their round faces
to the sun.

I will them to grow,
for you.

Before, when I thought of strong women,
I saw Margaret:
Thatcher, Mead, Sanger.

Now, I see you.

I keep repeating that old word,
hoping it will
make me brave like the Margarets:

Xunantunich,
Xunantunich.


tuesdays
 

when i snake a look at you
across thinly foamed cheap beer,

my thoughts become lit
like a glowworm, inching across a wet night cave.

your fingers press to my inside wrist,
turning me toward you.

in that tiny revolution,
i imagine later, when we greet the three o’ clock hour:

the cream sash of my arm
across your chest,

tracing invisible bruises,
wanting to be near when you are just skin.

each time i am caught between
the cool leather of your jacket and the warmth of your neck,

it is like pinning shirts to a clothesline
in the summer,

when the heat lightening warns you
of the coming storm.

still i want to hold you close, like
lavender gathered in springtime.


lost
 

trees press close like thin almond slivers,

rising tall but hesitant.
we have come here to take back our time.

we stole minutes for each other.
dipping the back of our heads in shocking cool creek,

we look up, daring the sky to rain.
mist settles on cheeks flush from escape.

it is a wet veil of heaven, cast like a net over nervous bodies.
this wax paper moment is almost too much,

blurred and sensory, as if i had dreamed it.


September 3rd
 

I raise the spoon to your mouth,
            slack because muscles are failing,
            and lips peeling from dehydration.

I tip it back and watch ice splinters drop into the open slit.
            Your tongue struggles with the cold;
            tiny tears blot the inside corners of your eyes.

I can see that you are embarrassed.
            I talk you through lunch,
            since you only eat for me.

It takes a long time for you to swallow the soup.
            the thickening powder makes it clump
            like the mottled surface of the moon.

I cannot stop staring at the hollow space at your throat.
            an ancient crater,
            into which your mind has also gone.

In the corner of the room, Uncle is praying.
            A man of God
            whose hands are folded in idleness.

I go outside to watch the inevitable storm gather.
            The clouds move from thin gray wisps
            into a tower of charcoal, like burnt marshmallow.

I regret to say I never knew you
            the way granddaughters are supposed to,
            and when I get your diamonds, I know I will feel undeserving.

Today is your birthday,
            and I am wondering if 77 years is too long,
            if this is how it ends.


All photos by Liz Cantrell