The bloom of the hydrangea may be more breathtaking
And lush in its multiple fullness,
The peaches more fragrant and heavy
As they drag the branch down toward the dark, moist earth;
The jays and doves that come with ruffled wings,
Only recently awakened from shells, with unsteady gait,
And the butterflies who need multiple attempts
Before they can sip enough nectar
And flutter off with footprints of pollen:
Beautiful and exciting notes
To tell nature’s story,
Caught by a scanning eye,
Or only remembered from a past day.
Real nature is in the unseen germinating seed,
In the fruit’s ovarian pit that harbors life,
In the fragile eggs coddled and warmed in tree-blind nests,
And in the sticky-webbed cocoons where
Ugly, prickly-haired caterpillars dream of beauty.
We are allowed only a moment’s glance
Before all goes underground
To a restless sleep,
Waiting for the dawn.
When Rain Falls
To deny water is to deny your soul.
I shelter from time under
the balcony. Sleep’s
always has the melancholy
of anesthetized hours, humid
caresses without haste.
To deny water is to deny our instincts,
fleeing words rooted in dirt. cursing
rather than blessing mud.
To deny water is to deny your soul,
annihilating the shielding shadow.
Years have freed me
from the phony quiescence of Spring.
Surrendering my solitude
as a sentinel, I give
myself to the rain falling on my face.
When I think of woodpeckers, I think of you
because what persistence, what sound.
Because I thought a neighbor nailing
and found instead this feathered frame
drumming a gutter and you are always
that surprise, sky-flecked
and maroon. Because I will spend my whole
life forest-wide reverberating shapeless, foraging
through carving empty spaces. Because each rhythm
and hollowed-out home is yours. I give them
to you. Because we both know how to hold
the smallest excavations.
There is a word for a dune
as if it is a single thing,
which is to say that what we call things
is often make believe
for what we want them to be.
Ask any of the grains that have fallen
one on another, whether this year
or the last, and they will tell you that
one day the wind moved
and the grain moved with it,
and this is where it stopped
and the wind carried on.
Which is to say that a dune
is a lot of things falling
together in their nows
without palms shaping them into a word
they need meet.
Ask the snow that sits upon it now,
are you part of the dune
or are you part of the ocean?
There is a word for a body,
as if when you trail your fingers
along your skin, the aches you hold inside
aren’t their own living things,
stories that replay each night
like they’re a carousel.
As if when you stand,
the weight of a thousands words unsaid
doesn’t pool at the ankles,
bubble into heat tossed
at smaller, more sayable things.
There is a word for anger, too.
Hurricane Harvey, 2017
As the power gave out, the generator kicked in
As rain fell, I felt her ghost escaping through a window
Vanishing into green dusk
As the pet dog found its inner watch dog
I dragged both mutts across the mushy field of weeds
Helicopters buzzing above, filming us
And the rain fell and continued falling
In an endless loop of rainfall
And I honestly wondered if perhaps it wouldn’t end
If perhaps I should open my mouth
Wide to catch it as it came down and down
At night I never slept
There was nothing to be done
When we made love it was more about fear
And placing a barrier between ourselves
And the future which had become THE FUTURE
As I catalogued the details of the real
As real as the hand that glides into her
As real as the mouth that takes her on these shores
And with waves crashing down upon us I told her
A story about simple times
A story erasing the story I believed was true
Because believing came down to this
And only this:
We are wind swept
I used to be somebody’s daughter.
When sadness threatens to take me down, the rituals
kick in. I begin
by walking it out.
Sadness, the thread,
I, the spool.
I walk to breathe
I breathe to think
I think to write
I write to love
Sunshine hits metal
The brightness, blinding
I want you to understand how I feel
[We pause inside this poem together]
Paula C. Brancato
A lion sits on the golden stones of a building in Caltigirone.
A fiery Mediterranean sun sets.
I hold my daughter’s hand or did then. Why do people die?
The long days of Covid – I want to know.
In the piazza, water flows from the gargoyle’s head with the bitterness of iron.
The violinist sits in moonlight, in a white shirt,
braille, as the fountain bubbles
like a player piano.
A tendu, she places the tips of her fingers into the palms of her lover,
rises en pointe,
pirouettes in darkness.
The first thing she’s going to do, she told me,
well, the first thing after the necessary things
like checking in with her parole officer,
like applying for a driver’s license,
like seeing if the clothes in her bedroom closet still fit,
which they might because, in the past month,
nervous about leaving (though it’s all
she’s wanted to do since she arrived),
she hasn’t eaten much more
than her fingernails,
yes, the first thing she’s going to do
is find her figure skates.
Her mother won’t have thrown them away.
Her mother has saved everything—broken Barbies,
elementary-school report cards, ancient drawings
painted colorfully, cheerfully, between the lines—
because she couldn’t save her daughter.
She knows what world she’ll meet outside.
On job applications, she’ll check a box.
No bank will give her a loan.
Every man she dates will wonder, and some will ask,
Did you do it?—the crime—and, Did you…
you know…do it with one of…?
She’ll be out of prison
and forever a prisoner.
There’s a pond behind her mother’s house,
If February is as cold as it was a decade ago,
it will be frozen.
She’ll skate like she’s a satellite
streaking around the sun.
She’ll jump like she’s a rocket to Mars.
If the ice is weak, the water she’ll crash into
couldn’t be any colder, or more terrifying,
than her first night in her cell
when she woke to a darkness
that would only have been merciful
if it had been complete.
Painting The Window Sill
I was painting the window sill
a mosquito lit in the wet paint
there was no saving her even if I wanted to
she had no way of knowing how or why
that place once safe had changed
I guess the cosmos works like that
where sometimes for reasons unexplained
rash decisions yield happy consequences
and routine ones are fatal.
The Dead Stalk Us
Someone is following you tonight, but fret
Not. It’s just my mom on the haunt.
She left all her sneakiness behind
When she died. If you listen
Closely, her footsteps chime, there’s data
In every echo. Walk as though
You are asleep, whisper love songs
To yourself, and you’ll be fine.
Neighbors are taking turns trailing you
Both, making sure you’re safe.
Overhead there’s an astronaut orbiting
Planet Earth. Let that be me,
Magnetized to you both, as I truly am.
Now you glide Into the open
Field, hands deep in the pockets of your
Dress. You want so much
To turn around, offer her an arm to steady
Her in her trek, but that can’t
Be. So instead you look for the bird
Nest that is her obituary, the willow
Tree that is her legacy, and into the sky. Please
Know that I am up here, half
To blame for my own phantom madness,
Drowsy with passion I never knew was
Mine, keeping my desire a secret, even
From myself. From the sky,
The blurring shapes sharpen.
My dead mom winds her way
Through these nights. Shelter her
Until she’s ready to move on.