Darkly beautiful, erotic, lyrical and haunting poems inspired by experiences of love and loss, this collection carries readers across time, geography, and interior space to embrace both the pain and beauty of living fully in an ever-changing world.
Mary Kennedy Eastham
Lovewrecked by Billy King. There’s no other way to begin.
I say his name even now without thinking
as if I could step back into our French afternoon
smell the scent of the roses on the terrace –
Naked Ladies weren’t they called?
I was his early girl
the only woman he’d been with
if you don’t count Junie
a best friend turned awkward lover.
With Billy I could eat love
from lips prettier than mine
and be okay with that.
I called him ‘the boy’ hoping that would keep
his innocence, his sweet smile
from getting to the part of me
that never wanted
to give everything away.
I remember the steps in our hotel room leading nowhere
the Paris subway map in Billy’s hand as he slept
and me sitting on that prayer white footstool
needing him and wishing I didn’t.
A shutter opened and closed with the wind
leading a stray cat toward happy ruin on the ledge
the infinite knot of twisted rawhide Billy made for him
teasing him toward us, then away, toward us, then away.
Days later when the boy and the cat are gone,
a pretty maid will appear at my door
Billy’s knit beanie in her hand.
For you, Mademoiselle, she will say, is this missing?
I go back to that moment when I was still his early girl.
What’s next for the cat I ask my sleepy boy.
We’ll adopt him, Billy said, pulling me onto the bed
as flecks of rain began to fall from cracks in the skylight
wet ornaments of pleasure streaming down on us through high glass.
From An Unloved Mother
These words about how my son
stopped being my son
and made me his enemy
are too sad; they will cause you
to shy away, so I will draw you in
view from the wrong end of the telescope
a skimming bird, swallow of shadow that drops
feathers on the late day sea beyond this marsh
where wind laps up all the indigo thistledown
I’m there, writing
what I say can be found in other letters from
an unloved mother to a beloved son, usually
found years later, smoke-moss soft, stashed in
the backs of drawers, never sent
I had no choice, no matter how you believe
I sinned, seized or stilted, know that I loved
you always every minute, I loved you
like the heathery bird who dies for the sake
of its hatchling, dripping blood from its broken
beak and crying out
I write these words on vellum with taloned
claws with feathered quill, dipped in ink from
sac of squid, then rip them into bits of wet text
of pulp, submit as weedy shadows dropped on
watery marshes to be picked up, salvaged by
other beaks, other mothers
to hang out to dry in order to use later as lining
as softening, as warm intuitive comforting
in other damaged and abandoned nests.
Postcard from Hopewell Cemetery
“A Michigan woman was sentenced to nine months in jail for attempted larceny. She was arrested after a witness saw a car full of flowers leaving a cemetery.”
—Washington Post, July 24, 2017
Such lavish praise on nearly every stone.
Nobody ever cheated here, I guess,
or bounced a check, defaulted on a loan,
or lit evictions with a black Zippo. Success
blooms here in jelly jars of peonies,
hibiscus, orchids, mums. They go to waste
each Tuesday though, when short-timers turn keys
on mowers, ride around, bring home bouquets
to wives. (My ex did once, ten years ago.
Then he left town with Viv.) On Monday nights
I make my rounds at dusk. I drive real slow
and pay respect, then load the car—blues, whites,
and fuchsias, sweet ceramic bowls the shape
of shamrocks, doves. They match my couch, my drapes.
Mary Kennedy Eastham
Three Soul-Makers: Poems That Bring Us Together (Poetrylandia 5)