SAMPLES FROM THE BOOK
copyright © 2023 by Nancy Manning
We were two college kids
in ripped jeans and Save-the-Earth
tee shirts. Poets by design.
You radiated, opening your gift—
John Updike’s Hugging the Shore,
which I had saved up to buy.
I wished I was your shoreline:
your arms could explore me, wrap
around my lonely sand; your hands
could trace the contours of my rocks,
fill in gaps with your salt water. Your fingers
could comb seaweed curls of my hair.
Your tongue could soften the polish
of my driftwood. Make me more briny.
I waited the winter, each day
greeted the mailman,
stepped away empty-handed—
kicked through the snow.
Blew out another candle.
Later I learned you had moored
found a better beach.
(my one and only)
here where candles kiss
the night, I lie folded in your arms
for your heart is my heart.
our legs like stems, our arms like petals,
we sleep like the morning glory
that closes eyes to the dark,
awakens when the sun stretches
across the seascape sky and waves
lean forward, brush the shore.
We two bloom together.
Thoreau Was Right
Here in my husband’s Ireland,
wildness is the preservation of the world.
Hiking Sheep’s Head Way,
I meander through soggy ground,
climb over stone, trip over deep roots,
discover ruins of an old farmhouse—
a skeleton created by time.
Collapsed roof and support beams pile
inward like crushed ribs. The limestone
chimney, pounded by wind, remains upright.
Even without a door or curtains, this house
has a soul. I imagine family
huddled before fire, sharing tales
of how Michael Collins fought to free this land.
Behind the house, into a shaded bower, I step.
Woodbine embraces the holly.
Fiery torches of red montbretia light
my way. I hear the shrill of a songbird.
Delighted by blackberries, I pick dozens,
chew as juice dribbles down my chin.
Seagulls gawk. To the west, cliffs impose
their presence. Boats sprinkle the bay as fishermen
pull nets, smile upon the day. All this my husband
left behind. My dream is to stay.
The first time I almost lost him,
I was five, sitting on the back porch.
He ran up the sidewalk, neighborhood
boys behind him. His face ashen as blood
spurted an angry fountain of red from his wrist.
He had been playing at the brook and fell—
a jagged piece of glass had slashed open his wrist,
sliced open the vein.
Mr. McConnell applied a tourniquet.
Daddy rushed him to the emergency room. Left home,
I kept repeating, “Don’t take him. He’s my brother.”
I waited for hours for his return. Like the Savior,
the doctor performed a miracle, stitched him up.
The scar is still prominent now like an unwanted guest.
The second time he was almost taken from me
was last Christmas. Working at a nursing home,
he contracted Covid. The x-ray of his lungs
showed shadows where pneumonia clouded.
His breaths were asthmatic wheezes disrupted
by coughing fits. Fevers plagued him, night sweats
prevented sleep. Our sister Carol brought groceries,
homemade soup. I dropped off turkey dinner, portions
for five days—he finished them in two. Three times
he drove to the hospital, even during a snowstorm.
He was never admitted. Never given medicine.
Yet somehow we were gifted with another miracle.
Visiting the Institute
I wait, vaulted in this room—walls white, bare.
Nothing but a table, four chairs.
You shuffle in, still wearing pajamas,
your hair pulled back, your face marred
by acne. An attendant by your side.
Your eyes keep scanning the room. Looking
for what? A clock? Some corner to hide?
I nod and your hands start to shake. You slide
them under the table. I wonder what meds
you have been prescribed.
Your doctors stitched you together but you speak
in fragments. Fine. No. Kinda. All sharp objects
have been removed.
My lips quiver. Your bedroom walls used to
feature your sketches of native Americans,
your fishing in New Brunswick, Canada, your hiking.
Trophies cluttered your shelves. How I wanted to be you.
You turn your head, say you’re tired. It’s time.
You don’t smile, don’t extend your arms.
Instead your hands shake more steadily
like Uncle John’s. He suffered from Parkinson’s,
never hugged us good-bye.
You reach into your pocket, pull out creased
you and me. Smiles beaming on our faces.
paper. Your attendant leans closer.
You hand me a drawing, shaky stick figures—
To Those Watching and Listening
Based on CNN Reporting: “Drone video team turns
the tables on hiding Russian vehicle”
There was no staging what bombs have destroyed
in my grandparents’ Ukraine. This Armageddon.
The ash thickens the air, settles deep in the lungs.
No one pretends to be a corpse shot or run over
by a tank, lies down on a road, and makes blood
pool on pavement. A person can’t partially bury
himself in sand and claim, See what they have done.
There aren’t enough coffins and body bags to empty
the streets. There aren’t enough people to pull dead
from the rubble, bury, mark each grave.
Those who stay have no home, no heat, no food,
no water. Their days are numbered. They cry
before a camera and beg for these atrocities to end.
Drone footage captures how Z tanks hidden in forest aim, fire,
murder more innocent. How Russian soldiers drag away
the lifeless, loot them, discard bodies like unwanted trash.
Around the table, we sit with straight backs.
You cower, keep your eyes unfocused—
your face twitches between words we utter.
When your doctor requests history,
the crooked smile slides off your face.
Mommy doesn’t say a word, wants
this thunderstorm to go away, evaporate like rain.
My brother calls her out for being
unsupportive of his partner.
My middle sister rocks, remembers
Daddy’s fist in her face, his hands strangling
her neck before he guzzled a beer.
My voice is firm, my list long.
I recount dates when my mother lost teeth,
when my brother heaved the kitchen table
so he could escape, when I stood my ground
and kicked my father’s knee, when I intercepted
blows to protect others. So many bruises we bore.
My father stole so much from us.
All these years, my sister defended him.
This her doctor jots down.
Despite winter, you manage it—
to burst forth from death.
Your corm, the onion bulb of your base,
opens and roots in frozen soil.
You push just enough earth aside,
stretch the bract of your body, as if
you have a soliloquy to deliver.
Snow melts in a halo around you, reveals
like a curtain pulled back, this solemn
act. Your long perianth tube flowers in six
purple petals, two whorls of three.
Stamen and stigma appear together. I smile
though the air chills. Year after year
you perform and I applaud.