A Poem and Two Fables

Elegy

 

The breeze this morning pulls on the surface of the bay,

spinning the short-clipped waves like the notes on the brass cylinder

of a music box—sky as open lid, miniature ballerina turning

more and more slowly in place

though these waves keep pulsing—no familiar tune

to let go when the ballerina finally stops.

 

  

 

Fable

 

She must have been part bird,

all her flocking instinct

focused on her son

 

as though it weren’t just the two of them

at the kitchen table.

If he had known about her feathers

 

he might have forgiven her.

But the squawking and years of therapy

piled up in the ammonia air

 

made it difficult to breathe, and so he left.

It’s been five years

and only now he starts to wonder

 

at her wavering voice on the phone

and he thinks of their old clothesline

strung high from pine to pine

 

and how it might be difficult for her now

to hang the heavy clothes

but that’s the closest he’s come

 

to picturing his mother,

arms raised in the air

as a bird would its wings.

 

 

 

Fable

 

If he had known she were part squirrel,

her husband might have understood

her fidgety Novembers, hoarding

 

everything it seemed, hats and gloves,

ingredients for future meals,

the pantry cabinet full of jars meticulously labeled.

 

But they always fought in autumn,

went back to that same female therapist

who blamed the holidays,

 

unfulfilling Christmases, traumatic Thanksgivings—

the therapist who always sided with her husband

and did not understand

 

that when she thwipped him with her tail

which he sensed but could not see,

she was only trying to balance

 

on the thin branch of his misconceptions

about who she really was,

come autumn or spring, for that matter.

 

 

Sally Bliumis-Dunn teaches Modern Poetry at Manhattanville College. Her poems appeared in the Paris Review, Prairie Schooner, Plume, Poetry London, the New York Times and PBS NewsHour, among others. Her third collection, Echolocation, was published by Plume Editions/Madhat Press in March 2018.

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