Ellen E. Hyatt
Never easy as gray
on men in flannel suits
nor hued as Cassatt's choices but,
yes, the color of London
and like the blur
left in this photograph,
marking the spot where
you once were.
He says it's still his best time for writing,
this poet who asked for one of our cottages
facing west. I watch when he squints
in the direction of the sun in its last light
and hear his pen move across unlined paper
like off-stage whispers. Sometimes, restless
in a night heavy with jasmine, he coaxes
starts and stops of words into duty, but
they aren't dueted with melody as before,
before she left. That girl, who played guitar,
sang his lines with her soft lips again and again
through drowsy Southeastern summers.
she might be strumming by heart as she squints
on a West Coast stage into some spotlight. Her voice
wafts through the crowd like light perfume. And
where once there was just enough music between
him and her, there is now too much.
At Francis Beidler Forest
At dusk, when the others rush back
to the city away from the dark,
I stay. Looking in the black water,
I see the aerial roots of the old cypress
whose reflection tells me anything
loved never needs to end.
Not the water wandering the forest
Not the redfin pickerel surfacing
Not the tree frog posed high
Not the woodthrush's flute, solo
Not the crickets in trumpet vines
Not the barred owl's questions
When my eyes grow comfortable
to the light of scattered fireflies,
I linger to hear Saint Saens,
his swan still swimming with life,
grace. Night music blends into
rustling of leaves, and I'm again
while the forest plays our song.
River Note for the Teacher of Geometry
Always they had the answers
about those triangles-the geometry teacher,
the classmates. To grasp the three-sided shapes
I needed then what I know now. . .
Pittsburgh's West End view.
As ruffled wakes intersect rays of sun,
glinting overlays of acute and obtuse angles
collect on the waters. Some ripplings
effect the entire A-B-C-lesson of Pythagorus.
An isosceles is patterned by the gray-blue
of the Monongahela and Allegheny. They
bank the land, join, and form an apex,
not a mere dot on graph paper but a point
upon which a fountain landmarks
headwaters of the Ohio. The grand river
moves like promises wanting to be kept.
Had the teacher looked beyond the book
to measure the earth, I could have
learning is more than right answers
about right angles.
We each could have slipped
into the rivers, floated to better years.
It's nine years since I saw you,
you with a sketch pad
on the shoreline-you
looking to mysteries
of the silent horizon-
you with more dreams
than waves interrupting
the oncoming tide.
Today, I visit you
and five children
in the suburbs. You
with a refrigerator door
appointments, crayon marks,
finger paintings by Joe, age five.
Your studio, now a nursery
for the one on the way. Tossed
in a corner, your sketch pad.
Page after page still holds the sea
of that spring you left.
I wonder-those days-the tide-
was it coming in or leaving
for nonexistent shores?
Speaking of Small Southern Towns
Abandoned shops, flush with the pavement,
stand like the destitute-tattered, faded.
I stand facing a window reflecting
town square fragmented and uncared for.
Soft rain falls, and the past slides down the pane:
Shopkeepers ready their day
under a new sun-iridescent before pink.
Busyness begins. It spills into the street.
April cues leaflets and pale purple clusters.
Wisteria. It drops in the air, hangs there,
and takes over.
Someone calls out from across the square,
near Roger's Mortuary and the post office:
"Excuse me. Do you know
the zip code for this town?
I just moved here and keep forgetting it."
The speaker, a man in his twenties, on a bicycle,
carries a small packet of letters.
I want to point to wisteria's twining
the land. Shouldn't I warn him
to cut it back in August, within four feet
of last year's wood? Entwined vines
will choke their own branches. But
if properly pruned, wisteria's tendrils
could begin a safe climb and cascade
miles and miles of landscape
What Holds Them
She referred to containers. Those large and dull,
heavy-like worn pewter or old pottery -
for peonies and the thick-stemmed.
Tall vases for long stalks, the glads
and hollyhocks. For aquatics, bowls-
shallow and foot-wide at least.
Glass, great for all hues of roses
whose stems stay fresh. But
summer soft-stems need brass,
copper, she said, the dark interior to last.
We were standing in the garden,
my mother early-summered like the day.
I wondered whether she could begin talking-
ever-of other arrangements. Today,
flowers already arriving, I realize
she had been.
YOUR ONLY SHINY THING
THE LIZARD IN THE WASHING MACHINES
MORE LIGHT THAN WE CAN HOLD