Three Poems By Sally Thomas


For my son 

That night, the fire you photographed––respiring
And pulsing in the trees’ bare bones, and scouring 
Mountainsides, and hissing its exultet
In the air and underground, through root
Systems, capillaries of buried flame––
Existed, neither memory nor dream.
You stood in it and rested from your work
Of chopping embered tree roots from red earth. 
Just outside the frame, an unseen man,
One of hundreds, you held up your phone
To trap a moment. Otherwise, how could
You tell it, even you, who have a word
Or two to put together? Who could say
What showed itself to you that night? The way
The world burns: this is it, all beautiful 
And metastatic. Next year, when that shell
Of ash is downed with grass, and you’ll have followed
Other fires, through other distant, harrowed
Darknesses––Nice national forest you 
Got here––and crushed the root beneath the backhoe,
And gripped the bucking hose that like a snake
Fights to free itself and douse the convict
Crew, and all the world is glowing coals,
And in the trees the windblown fire-crown rolls
And surfs, devouring miles, and smoky suns
Rise, or not, you’ll find you can’t say when
You took what photograph, what year, what hour,
What you––unseen and there––what breath, what fire.  


While you were away, the winter-
Red camellias bloomed. Each center,
Lush but unscented,
Its splendor,

As though ex nihilo, again,
Again. They made a constant rain,
Petals on the grass.
In the flower press,
They are less
A refrain

Of that passion-red than a sigh,
Browned, brittle, onion-paper-dry. 
Still I kept them. Make
Of this what you like. 
Or unmake
It. What I

Want to say is, I thought of you
When the trees bloomed. I thought of you
When the petals fell. 
Though we think of smell
As the bell
In the blue

Distances of memory, it 
Was, I think, the cold crimson hit
To the eyes first thing
On Sunday morning –
Wren’s warning
From the split

Fence, the brilliant day, your absence
In it – that made some sudden sense,
A grace note in my 
Mind. And that is why,
Today, I
Make presents

Of these faded-parchment flower
Pages. I give you one bright hour
When I missed you: gone
Now as you were then. 
Here’s a wren. 
Here’s the spoor

Of that March morning, here and fled. 
Here are these dry petals, faintly red,
That hold memory,
Offered me
And tended. 

On the woodcut print by Kawase Hasui

One human figure
Carrying an umbrella
Makes the street a flood

Of miracle. She 
Has stepped out onto floating
Lit windows broken

By the rain’s dropped nails
Into shatters of melted 
Glow, with dark edges

Where clustered houses 
Have laid down their cowbell roofs,
Blind walls. In the rain,

Night goes on falling
Until it’s a river she
Stands on, skirts kilted,

Looking away – where? – 
Holding her white umbrella,
Stalked by her shadow. 

Editor's Note: Here's a link to "Rain at Maekawa in Soshu".

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

One comment

  1. Ms Thomas: I have been pondering and revelling in your poems. The subtleties, as in all memorable poetry, emerge over time and many readings (I’m not finished with them yet!). But please allow me to single out Flower Press. It’s craft astonishes. You have committed to a high wire act with its metrics (when was the last time I saw a deliberate use of amphibrach?), at the same time as the voice and its multiple tone shadings propel each verse forward. I was anticipating the inevitable pratfall on the banana peel, but no, each verse is a disciplined whole that never sounds a false note. I’m gobsmacked and a little in awe. Thank you is too weak to express my appreciation. Robert Graham


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