The Innisfree Poetry Journal
by Rachel McGahey
We pinched an hour, and the clock is older now
at dusk. My neighbor has already called his dog.
The sidewalk cats slip in and out of sullen light.
A yellow brilliance squares the building lids
and sharpens far black foliage. Bright beads pierce
horizon treetops, dimming slowly, snuffed out
spot by spot. On gravel minced below my sill,
wine bottles bristle from a bin, and Spanish moss
collects like feral manes around their necks
while bicycles in fetters at the metal rack
jut angles, glinting, snarled in spidery ranks—
a few wheels gone, their stark frames mellowing
in sundown shadows. Resting here, with elbows
on the ledge, I hold our canceled time in mind
and store it, calmest since I gave you up.
My mother, four foot ten, would teach
a room of farmer sons and snotty
toddlers, thawed by one wood stove
and tethered by McGuffey's First
Eclectic Reader: Răb. Ann. hăt.
cătch. sēe. See Rab! See Ann! See!
Rab has the cat. Can Ann catch Rab?
She had a switch, and if they gave her
sass, believe me, she would use it.
She wouldn't take mistakes from anyone,
not even her own children. When I left
to marry John at seventeen—a leap
across the empty lentil fields
to Illinois—she sold my old piano.
Then she lived alone. She slipped
and cracked a hip, one winter, coming home,
and no one came to call until too late.
Yes, I heard you call, and heard you
leave a message, twice, but couldn't
make it to the phone. I fell, I guess—
was sitting here on the bed, and must have just
fallen over. Fell right over, right
to the floor. I don't know how.
I must have been here all day long—
I don't remember. Not so young
now, John, that's all. You didn’t
have to come from work, I'll really be all right.
Just stick it out, my mother used to say.
Tough hide, hard work, bean soup,
no salt. John. I can't move this side.
R6 TO PHILADELPHIA
The excess city clings
to the Schuylkill, heaping roofs
along the river's length,
casting spans across
as horizon skyscrapers grow.
On one side's rising shore, houses stack
up streets, staggered on the steep
incline. The towns chain tight—
Manayunk. A train
comes tunneling out to ride the bank
by gaping factories and brick,
by broken doors, by leafy
At Wissahickon platform,
in the harried pack, a man
trips up the boarding step
with a frayed suitcase, clawing
for a grip. He fills a seat. The people gaze
no place—at Time, a purse, a fingernail,
an oval pane, a SEPTA map,
a wallet. Dollars, cents,
receipts—he thumbs distractedly
for more, all pockets vacant.
She clips his ticket, shakes her head:
"It's not enough. We'll ask you to get off
at Allegheny," moving by
to other rows. The city blurs.
The train car clatters, jolts, but she
keeps ticketing, not even
reaching for a hold.
The level river runs
outside his window, brownand low, no trouble on its changeless face.
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