Nov/Dec 1999 Poetry

Four Poems

by Shann Palmer


Northern Lights

Aunt Margaret pointed to Alaska
we stood looking from the Seattle needle
queasy from the height and twelve I thought
someday I'll come back let's go down now

reading the newspaper from Anchorage
everyday on-line I scroll past bear attacks
glacier explorations fisheries opening
looking for news of a missing nephew as if

I'd read it before a phone call let me know
it can't be real anyway I never met the child
if he knows of me at all I'm sure I suffer
in the explanation no love left there or here

I am reading again at dusk and my hand pauses
it's just a picture static picture of the blues
the swaying pinks of northern lights at Big Lake
Michael is just a missing name while my son sits

safe at the kitchen table complaining of school
no leftover pizza or friends in the chat room
and I know I will never get to Alaska never see
any beauty there I don't want to go any more.



It was the Christmas of bottle cutters.
Sand smooth rims of labeled green goblets,
to drink iced tea where dry reds have rested
and been judged. There were many bottles used.

Some broke under the stress of being cut,
others too thin or thick to match the set.
What began as love's labor dwindled fast,
unfinished, abandoned, gathering dust.

She, standing in the door of his workroom,
savors the sun shining through green glass
circles lined against the frosted windows.
The project waits undone, but no one comes.

Motes whirl in the stream of late winter light,
settling on the open box, scattered parts.
She does not think, she is benign as glass,
intended for one use, now another.


Walking to the Circle K

Mom, for a change,
wanting to get out of the house.
Me, already on my way.

Pockets full of quarters
for drinks and Almond Joy,
the clean desert breeze
blew words into dust devils
around our feet, into our eyes.

Sitting on the cement slab
of a house never built,
we split the candy,
toasted the blue sky.

Looking back at the snapshot
in my head I hear her laugh
advice in biblical proportions.

I promised Iíd never be ashamed-
she said sheíd always be there,
though she hadnít been before.

The lies twisted into cloths
I wear alone in prayer.
Shutting cabinets, putting away
childish things, I atone
for all I didnít know then,

for what she didnít tell.


He said consider lilies

but I wanted ground covered
English ivy wandering Jew
something to be forever there
from places I had never seen.

I wished mounds of wild he chose
precision planned and walled

in heat we prepared
dug as deep as time allowed
moving pieces of old mountains
adding and taking away
we made the bed

Winter found us banked
against the wind dreaming
colors out of season

there were no lilies there
and wild gave way to marigolds
common plants we could afford
each unsatisfied but still
within the bounds
of garden.


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