SAMPLES FROM THE BOOK
copyright © 2022 by Dawn E. Morrow
Sounds Like Lace
When Luci wrote of the ebbtide
sounds like lace, I returned
to early mornings, shore front,
bare feet on wet sand,
my uncles on the pier casting lines
or pulling up crab traps full
of clicking claws we’d throw
in a pot of boiling water
’til they came to the color
of the sun on the bay side
of the island. This year
seems like the tide has gone
out so far it’s uncovered
all the lost things swept
to sea: seaweed tangled
in rusted gears; a mangled
mess of crushed-up shell,
remains of seagull snacks;
and here and there, the bright
blue glint of sea glass,
edges worn smooth, frosted
by years of tides, the water
swaying like a woman
who dances to the memory
of a song she used to know.
Dad tinkered with radios
that never worked,
the smell of hot solder mingling
with the oil-and-cigarette-smoke
cologne that clung to him.
I played in the pilot’s seat
of the wingless airplane
in our garage, waving hello
to the poster of the pink-feathered
dancing girl as I flew past.
My grandfather was a pilot.
My mother was a stewardess.
My father flew on fantasies.
I was fearless.
I didn’t know planes could crash.
I flew over the house
and saw it recede into
a child’s drawing – all
triangles and squares.
I flew around the world
I knew only through
Disney World and landed
in the kitchen where my mom
set the table for dinner.
She’d forgotten how to fly.
When she told me to get my father
I flew from kitchen to garage,
bare feet slapping on slate floor,
arms outstretched. With my wings
I covered the miles in between them.
I learned to use a revolving door
in the fanciest hotel I’d ever seen.
The first try tossed me out –
back onto the sidewalk
where my mother laughed. She offered
to demonstrate, then seemed surprised
when I wedged myself in next to her
in the pie-shaped space. No room
for two of us, I pressed flat
against the wall, arms splayed
like the wings of a butterfly pinned
to a specimen board. She, on tiptoe,
moved with tiny steps; together
in some strange choreography, counting
time like ballroom dancers,
we emerged, somehow still on our feet.
In winter the beach bleeds all its color out,
and in the midst of the gray: my mother,
on a bench watching the sea.
Her favorite season. Crowds gone,
storefronts boarded, no caramel corn or hot dogs
overpowering the smell of sharp January air.
I watched her watch the waves that day.
Now I wonder if she wrote her instructions then,
considering the way the wind scattered the sand:
Bring me home. The five pounds
of her arrived by mail one winter morning.
We went to the beach one more time,
her fine ash mingling with sand
and sea, all gray. I breathed in salt air, then breathed
her from my palm, like a child blowing kisses.
On Trying to Write a Love Poem
Before they can be confined to a page
feelings have to mellow. Steep in hot water
until they release their flavor to be held
in the mouth and savored without biting.
New love, for example: not so much a tender
shoot, but a bucking horse, its rider clinging
on until, tired, it yields to the partnership,
both broken into the other, leather loafers
on feet which have forgotten their blisters.
Hiking down the streets of the city, by pigeons
pecking the sidewalk near a statue
of an old man nobody remembers,
I find no path in a snowy wood, only
remains of someone’s lunch and a sign,
discarded – Please help, I’m hungry.
Poems still sprout in the city: tentative flowers pressing
through cracked pavement, a monarch flirting
with the hood of my car on the way home,
and tonight, among the ruins
of an abandoned tenement,
a church with its bells ringing.
Zoom In on the Teddy Bear
In a corner of the living room, the tiny baby
my friends brought home nurses, his world still as small
as pink lips latched onto a nipple, surrounded
by baby gear barely older than he is
and six friends huddled close, weeping,
the doctor’s news still echoing around us.
I often dream of impending disaster:
tornado bearing down on children playing
in the driveway on a summer afternoon,
their parents cheerfully chatting on the porch.
I call out a warning, but they don’t hear.
The perfect first scene of a made-for-tv movie:
camera pans to smiling faces,
chalked hopscotch, waiting teddy bear. Hints
to warn the watcher it’s not going to end well –
that teddy bear will reappear, torn to shreds
or floating face down in a puddle.
Later, the phone rings – false alarm –
a healthy baby. His mother weeps, restoring
her dreams for the boy in her lap.
Sometimes the children are called in for dinner.
Sometimes the teddy bear is tucked in under an arm.
Sometimes the doctor calls again.
On the Alaskan tundra the guide warned us
not to walk single file: the squishy earth
learns the shape of feet pressing into its flesh
and keeps the memory for five hundred years,
like a story passed down from generation
to generation. I want to stand still
until the ground memorizes my footprint.
Scientists suggest memory lives in cells
spread across the body – kidney and spleen
a backup drive for the brain. I picture my skin
sloughing off, reinventing itself every seven years,
sending a flurry of stories into the air
for strangers around me to breathe in,
to reinvent, to make part of themselves.
Even when I am gone, leaving no one
to trade my family stories, I will still be here,
in footprints and dust, in the lungs
of the woman reading her book next to me on the train.