Jan/Feb 2004 Poetry Special Feature


by Jennifer Finstrom



Sickness is a passport to the world
of the spirits. In dreams we touch
the border with transparent hands,
but when ill, step over the low
wall and walk in the garden,
watched only by nodding flowers,
heavy-headed and monstrous.

When I'm sick, my head is full
of clouds. Nothing here is real.
This is how shamans follow
a ladder out of their bodies,
climb the drumbeat that looks
back at their echoing hearts.

There is a flower here like the head
of a lion, petaled mouth open
to roar. It drives me along
the gravel path to a white terrace
and a long steep hill. I remember
this place from childhood,
the terrace pale and empty like
the bones of a temple.
At the bottom of the hill I see
houses and a road. In winter I have
sledded here and in summer rolled,
covering myself with grass, but now
I fling myself forward, run down
the hill. I may never reach
the houses, the road, but if I stretch
my arms out far enough I can
almost pluck the light that is swinging
above a door. I will lift it in my
hands, this golden lamp, this
sacred apple, and take the single
bite that makes me whole.


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