Three Poems By Sally Thomas

They’ve put a lap pool in. Now, up at dawn, 
She parts the narrow waters. Her white head,
Seal-slick, breaches, sounds. Her back is brown,
Muscle-roped, with darker splotches. Dead
Is not a category she’ll inhabit
Voluntarily, without a fight.  
Her spotted hands reach for the water, grab it,
Cast it behind her into cloven light.
When he retired, he bought a ride-on mower.
Every day he rides on it. The air,
Green with cut-grass scent in early sun, 
Endures the mower’s noise. Beneath his skin, 
Some splinter’s festering out. Behind him lies
One brilliant ribbon, emerald, precise,
Unrolled across the dew. Before him: that
Expanse of fescue not yet razored flat. 
Behind us, they’re invisible. A wall
Separates our two backyards, while elsewhere,
Around our property, chain-link is all
We have for boundary. Here lurks a metaphor,
You might say. Something there is that doesn’t love –
I’d say let’s leave it there. We’ve never known
Their names, only voices. He smokes clove
Cigarettes. Their holly tree has thrown
Beseeching arms across the wall, bejeweled
Today with little early jadeite berries.
A child is always crying. Two women scold
Halfheartedly. The smoking man’s shout carries
Through our screen door. Eavesdropping, I can’t tell
Who it is his shapeless words address. 
The child? The women – who are they? The wall?
When silence falls, it feels like a caress. 
A red-brick firepit, archaeological
In round simplicity – in fact, they made
It, their first weekend, from the methodical
Brick paths by which the garden had been laid
Out in a formal boxwood grid with bright
Medallions of cosmos, zinnias –
Throws up sparks that star the glowing air
Above their roof, this humid August night. 
From our porch swing, we watch. We liked the upright 
Lady, ninety-four years old, who lived there
With flowers and a one-eyed Pekingese. 
The door was yellow then. She died at Christmas – 
Two years ago? The shadows now look darker. 
Around their fire, they laugh and drink their beer. 
A girl, running, writes her name in sparkler
Over the fresh, unpunctuated grass.  
The less you give, the more you fear the giving.
A little sourdough leavens all the bread.
Why do you seek the dead among the living?
The husband you can’t have is not worth having.
Some days your hair hangs heavy on your head.
The less you give, the more you fear the giving
Spirit, so perilous. You’d end up grieving
Old dreams moldering in the garden shed.
Why do you seek the dead among the living
Worries that attend you daily, thieving
What little peace you’ve found? The more you dread,
The less you give. The more you fear the giving,
The more your terrors multiply. Your driving
Becomes erratic. Go home. Go to bed. 
Why do you seek the dead among the living?
Though you show up, you always say, Just leaving.
It’s never merely that you’re feeling sad.
They ask for nothing. Still, you fear the giving.
Seek the dead – why not? You’ll go on living. 
On the print by Kobayashi Kiyochika

Which is brightest: boats
Under steam, whose windows lay
Themselves on water? 
An umbrella, gold
As a lit lamp on the bank?
The soul beneath it? 
Or the moon, smearing
Yesterday’s or tomorrow’s
Sun through broken clouds? 

Editor's note: Here is an image of Moon through Rain at Gohan Matsu

Sally Thomas is the author of a poetry collection, Motherland (Able Muse Press 2020). She lives with her family in North Carolina. 

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