Four Poems - Literary Magic
by Ute Carson
Literary Magic, Fall Issue 2008
Holding on for Dear Life

Nothing like parents!
And when they leave me in charge
His world tumbles like his building blocks,
His mood turns pure dejection, "Mama, Dada."
My love engulfs him in waves,
Holding, letting go, holding.
And as I press him to my chest,
His tears tender as new leaves,
He whips his legs in frustration,
His breath hissing behind his tongue
And his arms hang on to my neck,
As if it were a lifeline.
I relinquish myself
To this willful, needy wonder.


In the Face of Death

Our mare is old, old,
Her back swayed by 111 horse years, some would say.
She wheezes, hoofing along a grassy path
To the cemetery of equines, dogs and cats.
Under a cluster of pines she whiffs the morning mist,
Flickering with memories of ancient instincts.
None of her companions joined her in that place of departed spirits.

She pauses, dozes. A blood-red sunset.
Up from the ground, she struggles once more this morning to her feet,
Her rump buffeting the wind,
Flanks heaving, swaying from side to side,
A weak heart pulsing against the remaining rhythms of her youth,
Her ears perked to the sound of my voice,
Bestowing calm.

Now I feed her carrots and sing to her.
In the wink of an eye the lethal dose stops her.
Gently her legs buckle,
The velveteen-brown irises dilate,
In eyes, ringed like an owl's,
Wondering, questioning.
She slumps forward into prayer position,
Deep obeisance to the earth,
Her eyelashes wet with sweat drops like tears.

A last breath, thin as fog,
An experience of awe?
The dividing line between visible and invisible realms.
There is always mystery in the face of death,
Bitter even if accepted.
I am dazed by sadness.

The sky in the west is darkening,
The moon a perfect circle,
Air moving in a great wind
Making loud whooshing sounds,
Rearranging my thoughts
And leading me through our years of adventures together.
Thus am I released back to my everyday life
And depart without another glance at my fallen companion.


Permanence in Change

Your index finger traces the faint red threads of broken capillaries
Down my thigh to my bony knee.
The tenderness in your fingertip
Is like a reassuring smile.

At sixty-three, my third grandson's birth,
I did a headstand as a welcome.
Rounding down to a squat
I buried my head in my lap,
So dizzy was I from the effort and the joy.

When the morning glory opens its cup to the rising sun
A gentle closing at dusk is bound to follow.
And when I kiss your old, cracked lips, without the impatience of fire,
Like candle flames they still burn.


The Gift

The Woman carries loaves of steaming bread,
Her arms a basket woven around them.
Then she stops and lets her load tumble into a flung-out apron.
She looks at me and breaks off a chunk,
A gift of soft, grainy dough
With a crusty rim, brown like an earthen vessel.

I hesitate, having hungered all morning instead
For a slice of a pulpy orange
With its sweet juice coating my tongue
And its blossom-fragrance pleasing my nose.

The Woman has already turned
When I manage a belated thank-you.
Only the aroma of coal smoke and risen yeast
Still hangs in the space between us.

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