by Elaine Cavanaugh


Apples bleed–
yellowed skins remembered
by hornets,
hungry in the hour of their deaths.

In a theater of small things,
In the arc of our breathing,

what would we speak of anyway?

Tires grate against gravel. Rain-washed
bottle glass reflects. In dusk's light,
love arrives and dies in all disguises.

What would we speak of anyway?

Beside a painted handle, in the hush
of our breaths, blue granite-ware
overflows. Poet steps in, washes
her clay-caked feet.

What would we speak of anyway?

-appeared in Poems Inspired by Other Poems (2004) Shoshauna Shy, Editor


American Life in Poetry: Column 030


Naomi Shihab Nye
lives in San Antonio, Texas. Here she perfectly captures a moment in childhood that nearly all of us may remember: being too small for the games the big kids were playing, and fastening tightly upon some little thing of our own.

Boy and Egg

Every few minutes, he wants
to march the trail of flattened rye grass
back to the house of muttering
hens. He too could make
a bed in hay. Yesterday the egg so fresh
it felt hot in his hand and he pressed it
to his ear while the other children
laughed and ran with a ball, leaving him,
so little yet, too forgetful in games,
ready to cry if the ball brushed him,
riveted to the secret of birds
caught up inside his fist,
not ready to give it over
to the refrigerator
or the rest of the day.

Reprinted from "Fuel," published by BOA Editions by permission of the author. Copyright (c) 1998 by Naomi Shihab Nye, whose most recent book is "A Maze Me" Harper Collins/Greenwillow, 2004. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.


by Kim Roberts


We make a landscape
from flat bands of color:
blue at the top is always sky,
the orange of the porch
is the ground on which we stand,

looking out across the fields.
It is human to reason,
to try to make sense
from the abstract. It is human
to place ourselves on the porch.

The hot colors of the lowest band
rush toward us, as hot colors
tend to do: masculine
orange and red reach out,
invite, while the cool greens and blues

recede: private, female.
The figure on the porch is a woman.
Her head might be a smudge,
a thumb print– she balances
between figure and mere shape–

but she stares out over the water
as we do, looking at her looking
at bands of color, stripes on a canvas,
light caught but not static,
trapped but still shimmering.

-first appeared in Ekphrasis, Vol. 1, No. 5, 1999.


by Alice D'Alessio

Full Moon Tonight

Now that the guests are gone
packing their leftover mousse,
their aches and unfulfilled intents,
we take a walk around the block
shaking out crumbs. Yellow window squares
and street lights
eat away great sections of the night.

First fallen leaves crush underfoot.
I'm dragging my bucket of sad notes:
the decisions made wrong
that can't go right, and how one yes or no
can trigger aftershocks
eroding your heart inch by inch,
like weathering shale. The inevitability of it.
How it grabs you in the gut at night.
How it goes on.

Then you gather my jangled chords
in both your hands, and patient as a prayer,
reconstruct the melody. Turning the corner
we see the full moon rise above the roofs.

We put on Miles and wrestle dirty dishes.
At night we float in silver moon-surf,
riding a sea half full,
half empty.
-from Earth's Daughters 2003


American Life in Poetry: Column 029


Many of you have seen flocks of birds
or schools of minnows acting as if
they were guided by a common intelligence,
turning together, stopping together.
Here is a poem by
Debra Nystrom that
beautifully describes a flight of
swallows returning to their nests,
acting as if they were of one mind.
Notice how she extends the description
to comment on the way human behavior
differs from that of the birds.

Cliff Swallows
--Missouri Breaks

Is it some turn of wind
that funnels them all down at once, or
is it their own voices netting
to bring them in--the roll and churr
of hundreds searing through river light
and cliff dust, each to its precise
mud nest on the face--
none of our own isolate
groping, wishing need could be sent
so unerringly to solace. But
this silk-skein flashing is like heaven
brought down: not to meet ground
or water--to enter
the riven earth and disappear.

Reprinted from "Torn Sky,"
Sarabande Books, 2004, by permission
of the poet. Copyright (c) 2004 by
Debra Nystrom, an Associate Professor
of English at the University of Virginia.
This weekly column is supported by
The Poetry Foundation, The Library of
Congress, and the Department of English
at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln.
This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.



Jeri McCormick

The Hiding Place

Why not the great walnut chifforobe
sparsely hung with widow’s dresses?
Why not the massive sideboard
replete with drawers, shelves and bins?
We all knew Great Grandma’s secret,

even the children, though none of us
could say why she’d chosen the clock.
She’d been reaching into that chiming
wooden case for years, ever since
the Depression’s bleak wrenching

that left her husband dead and her life
reset across the Cumberlands
where she’d come to lend a hand
in bringing up her daughter’s brood.
No one doubted her medicinal need,

but wasn’t the clock a strange
repository for whiskey? Fifty years
after her death I try to calibrate
an answer. Perhaps she was drawn
to the classic Roman numerals,

the pendulum’s rhythmic swing—
history and craftsmanship in balance;
perhaps it was the melodic tone
resonating with dearly-held times
she’d spent with Morgan

who’d bought her the timepiece
during their years together
in North Carolina. Just a swig
from its cabinet would ease harried days
among teetotalers in the hinterlands

of Kentucky; it would rewind memories
she could not bear to lose. A boost
from the clock’s heart-pulse
would jump-start a survivor’s resolve,
keep old dreams from ticking away.

-first appeared in Kalliope, Vol XXVI, No. 1


American Life in Poetry: Column 028


Although this poem by North Carolina
native Ron Rash may seem to be just
about trout fishing, it is the first
of several poems Rash has written
about his cousin who died years ago.
Indirectly, the poet gives us clues
about this loss. By the end, we see
that in passing from life to death,
the fish's colors dull; so, too, may
fade the memories of a cherished life
long lost.

Speckled Trout

Water-flesh gleamed like mica:
orange fins, red flankspots, a char
shy as ginseng, found only
in spring-flow gaps, the thin clear
of faraway creeks no map
could name. My cousin showed me
those hidden places. I loved
how we found them, the way we
followed no trail, just stream-sound
tangled in rhododendron,
to where slow water opened
a hole to slip a line in
and lift as from a well bright
shadows of another world,
held in my hand, their color
already starting to fade.

First published in "Weber Studies,"
1996, and reprinted from "Raising
the Dead," Iris Press, 2002, by
permission of the author.
Copyright (c) 1996 by Ron Rash,
a writer and professor of
Appalachian Cultural Studies at
Western Carolina University, whose
newest novel is "Saints at the
River," Picador Press, 2005. This
weekly column is supported by
The Poetry Foundation, The Library
of Congress, and the Department of
English at the University of Nebraska,
Lincoln. This column does not accept
unsolicited poetry.



by Eve Robillard



Your coffins
were hasty
and crude, I am sure

and little is left
of you now--
a buckle, perhaps,

or a sword,
a button gleaming like a heart
between your wandering ribs,

but this is to say
there is moonlight
and rain

somewhere a fiddle
and now this mouse (little scout, little grey)
little far-from-home.

-from everything happens twice (Fireweed Press, 2002)