• Annual Literary Reviews •
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WE ARE EACH OTHER’S ANGELS
It was a phone call, the distress in her voice,
her fragility travels through the wires,
she confides her diagnosis, breast cancer.
I respond too rapidly, pour myself out in a minute,
open up the bottle I keep tightly closed
on a subject I want on the back shelf
gathering dust, put aside, buried, forgotten
with the other fears that keep managing to fall off
into my dreams, caught weak and vulnerable.
I hear the beat of my mortality,
it flows under the river of words,
shock, time, surgery, chemo, radiation.
My bottled fears spill out over the receiver
but I do not talk of infections, blood clots,
I do not talk of spending a year preparing to die,
I do not philosophize the need to live each day as a gift,
like others, I have no right to feel confident,
no privilege to the Book of Life and what it contains.
She hangs up uncomforted because
mine is a success story, one among many.
I leave the window of hope open
she leaves her fears on my shoulders.
IT WAS HIS WHOLE LIFE
For Dennis Kim
You do not have to explain why
you emptied your pockets, ripped off
your shoes, dived into seventy-five
feet of water. Why a sense of panic
preceded your plunge into the wet hands
of the Hudson River, hands that did not want
to let you go. We have felt the panic,
the misplacement of a poem, a manuscript
somewhere near but lost, the rummaging
and rustling of papers hours into days,
one piece of paper, the accumulation
of minutes and seconds, the words
we have been searching for, the words that fall
majestically on a blank page like rain on
dry earth until the paper fills with
the river of our lives, our emotions, our souls
You do not have to explain your loss
to fellow poets who mourn you for jumping
in the waters at St. Christopher’s pier for the bag
that held all your writings, your poems,
for screaming before the leap “I can’t let this stuff go.”
We wish it had been otherwise, we wish that
the confidence you had in retrieving the treasure
would have carried you beyond the pull
of the river’s grasping hands and into the career you so desired. We wish your writing life
would have started at twenty-two instead of ended.
We wish this poem need not be written. We wish we
could tell you that there would be more years of writing
to let the river take your words. We wish our wishes
were answered prayers.
Poetry workshop leader, many awards won,
many publishing credits, one book published
SALT WATER TAFFY
Did you ever have the taffy they sell
along the shores where seagulls swoop at bits
of crumbs fallen from food like water drops
off the sides of rocks; the taffy that is
pulled and stretched in shades of colored flavors,
each sticky rope drawn towards infinity,
its sugar crystals like stars in the swirl
of an universe ever expanding
the big bang stretched and pulled inside your mouth,
until taffy goo implodes into sweetness?
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