Sally Bliumis-Dunn

A Poem and Two Fables
May 26, 2018 Bliumis-Dunn Sally



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.






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.






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 at the 92nd Street Y and offers writing consultations. Her poems have appeared in the New York Times, Paris Review, PBS NewsHour, Plume, Poetry London, Prairie Schooner, RATTLE, the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-day and Ted Kooser’s “American Life in Poetry. In 2002, she was a finalist for the Nimrod/Hardman Pablo Neruda Prize. Her third book, Echolocation, was published by Plume Editions/MadHat Press in March of 2018 and was shortlisted for the Eric Hoffer Award, a longlist finalist for the Julie Suk Award and Runner Up for the Poetry By the Sea Best Book Award.