Apr/May 2016 Poetry

Four Poems

by Sharon Fagan McDermott

Image courtesy of the British Library Photostream

Summer Prayer: Pennsylvania

in memory of Brendan

We make each other a mooring,
early evening here in the small world,
where gods grumble and root in the dirt
and the red barn molders in summer light,
setting ripe fields to fire.

What we are doing is interpreting
the cirrus clouds, wisps
of names, our beloved dead
who console us with such luminous days
so that we remember them all over again.

The children trail their fingers
in the creek. Birds braid tree limbs
into fluency, while we flicker like old photographs
in the dwindling light. A quarter moon

emerges, a rain halo around it—and you,
my younger brother, my twenty years-gone
companion—flicker on the edge of fire-fly shine.
I breathe deep the soaked wine of fallen apples,

call up your dark curls, long limbs,
your head thrown back in a laugh.
But it is only imagination, summer's limitless
acres. Words cannot bring you back.

But, if words can do anything,
let constellations swirl with your memory,
let them hold you as I can't.
Let them bless this ink with stars.


Springtime, New Jersey

When I feel my childhood within me,
it is always Easter Sunday,
rainwater gushing along the curb.

I am all lace, fierce curiosity, alone.
I breathe deep the steamy asphalt,
popped tar bubbles. Under the sycamore,

dropped jacks are tumbled stars.

Rain, rain, rain
savored in the mouth:
The wet and ache
of those long “a's”.
One letter in the larger language
of escape.

My earliest memory?
The kith of vowels:
Pith, live, limn, birth.
Grandpa reciting:
bee-loud glade.
The plinth of sentences.

Buttercups beneath my chin testified
to a truth I understood.
The world was washed anew by water.

I called this faith. Along with incense
in the aisles and the sweeping white hems
of Resurrection robes.

Deeper than ideas, the blank slate of streets.
Deeper than ideas, a robin's trill snagged
beneath my striped umbrella.
Imagination: apple blossoms swarmed by bees.

Dusk, a drink of blue fog.
Or twilight—a silver cave.
Words signaled from shadows.

Olley, olley in free!
The pitch and timbres
behind the bark. And tunneling
through the hide-and-seek shrubs.

Voices echoing back, even still,
call me home. In my mouth,
the sour mash of dandelion.


In the Winter Room

After Andrew Wyeth's painting "Groundhog Day, 1959"

Even the light is grimy, less gleam
than grunge. A rectangle of sun
aslant, vectors and angles
in a cold kitchen.

Teacup in its glazed mooring
brims with shadows.
The skate of rim on the empty
plate. February dimmed.

The sun's an old dinghy
without wind. No her.
No him. No yellow dog
sunk into a pillow. Just
a short view

of ragged logs
tumbled where they fell,
unstacked. Within the room,
we miss the arms, the crackling
fire. Instead, the dusty floor.

Is that laughter from the other rooms?
A child clambering
on an oversized chair?
A ladle of beef stew,
red wine in the broth?

This room resists desire
but makes gestures toward a meal
that will be or has been eaten.

One plate is cold.
One knife is cold.
One saucer is cold.
The white tablecloth
is another snow.


Prayer to Dylan Thomas

Give me your street melancholy, your moon rage,
your silence before song. Your lovers abed
and their griefs are long gone.
I'm here in the loud conversations
of those in the coffee shop, traffic
rowdy through too-crowded streets.
Fierce heat turns the haze into white noise.
Red umbrellas crank open
like hibiscus flowers, black fans rattle breeze
through the air. Heat like a tourniquet;
noise like a dinghy. I'm awash
in these voluble currents. What is art's job?
You wrote for the lovers, the dark sea
of streets, a history of small lives,
of music, of edible wind. Every dark
corner radiated with the touch of your
words. Here, every live thing
is loud with discord. Even the oaks shout
with crows as heat lashes them to the branches.
Bring me your silence before song, your
cats in the shadows, your mornings
when the moon still holds sway.


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