Rosemary Winslow


falls into our world
stretches down like silver Christmas ornaments
settles in drips on summer leaves, each one a diamond on the tips
       of each grass leaf
shines in flashes of sun
swells the apple imperceptibly into autumn
leads the way up to the mountain crest
turns hard in the slow streams of mountains and Greenland
halts at the dam and churns back, coiling
covers the believers in white in shallow rivers
drinks both banks of the wide or narrow river

swallows dirt in puddles like cloudy days
buoys the battleship and the jellyfish,
covers the corpse chained to the winnowing fan
melts and fills the mouths of rivers
drinks the lowlands and deltas in the great typhoons and hurricanes
lifts up the pantomime of the sky to the creased eyes of widows
enters houses and factories, schools, offices, playgrounds
stands up and rolls over in surf and tsunami
pelts hikers and revels the hearts of Navaho dancers
favors the farmers of Niagara County and the coasts of continents

crashes and clashes and sings down creeks and ledges of limestone
lifts the skirts of silver-white willows mourning by streams
washes the spirits of travelers’ feet
conducts the music of rooftops and leaves
swims down gullets of animals and rises up stems of plants
conceals in its life ninety per cent of life on Earth
curves and circles with the pebble’s fall
drains and restores minerals from the ten thousand things
satisfies the camel and the poet in port
fills the cup of day


We were swimming in a fog on Squam Lake at dawn.
A tall blue rock near shore balanced vertical on a granite boulder.

And suddenly it flamed up and stretched out long wings.
Blue fanned out overhead. White belly softening away
from shore. One of us flipped over to backstroke.

That was the first summer I came here with you.
Today the herons are gone, and you may be going.

O my love, what are we now, how did we come to this place,
Water like skin, skin like water, flash of blue releasing from stone?
I ask in the drowning hours each night, I ask in the pearl before dawn.

Michael’s Notebook

Here you are—fourteen, a mind and heart
you scrawled out in the three-ring notebook
for a teacher who came once a week.
Mama kept it, and left it deep in a pile
of photographs from her life. We found it
in August, at our niece’s wedding. Under
a halogen light I read it with a sister’s eye.
I see you here, such interest in the world
whose body was already half disappeared.

“The male pheasant has colorful feathers,
and many wives,” you wrote one day. You
would have none. “A person will always
have a happy feeling in a crowd”—your view
on the county fair. “I like my sister,” you wrote of
your twin, after a send-up essay that began:
“she thinks she is good at cooking, sewing, and
cleaning, so I dedicate this in the soul hope
that the real truth may be known.” In the face
of her unspoken anger, your gentle wit. We
were all angry. Where was yours? Here?

“The pheasant has an easy life.” And here?—
“The grasshopper has an easy life.”  
You never complained.  

Sometimes I’d look at you and wonder
if you must be an angel, come with a gift
we had yet to know, like the ones who
visited Abraham to tell him of his children
numbering as the stars, and Lot to warn
of destruction by fire. Which way would
you go?

In my mind’s eye, you’re looking out
the dining window, a Queen Anne
Cherry outside. Sitting in the corner, you
huddled up in a blanket, and a wig
fashioned of a stranger’s hair, brown, like
our hair, and Mama’s before you turned
ill, before the white came, before the five
years. Almost a man—intelligent
and wise, ravaged.

Here you write in the middle of a science
essay on genetics. Burbank. Mendel. Boxes
for large and small T’s, for a gene you would
not fulfill. A prediction, predilection. Stopped
like end punctuation. You didn’t continue
long. Fifteen. Period. Next page, “The Deadly Beauty
of Winter.” Our thermometer’s drawn beside
The Ice Age, which flowed, on the next page,
under our house 10,000 years before. The red
blood of mercury rose to a height
that left you cold.

How did you come to this sentence: “What
you  see depends on how you’re looking at it.  
Change your view and you change.” I lived
a few decades before I understood this.
Do I now? I could not look at you then, thin
as a metal rod and circles like bruises
under your eyes. I remember the wallpaper,
spruce cones and stars sharply embossed.  
I have grieved for forty-six years, that I never
knew you. Here in these pages, a letter
delivered to me. You’re returned.

    *    *     *

I’m looking from the bottom
of a pond, fairly clear, unlike the one
on our farm. Up above are trees waving
in softened watery focus. In the middle, between
them and me, clear black tadpoles looking
like miniature whales swim the surface.  

Rosemary Winslow teaches writing and literature at The Catholic University of America.  Her poems and essays on poetry have appeared widely in journals and books, most recently in Beltway, Poet Lore, 32 Poems, The Schuykill Valley Journal, Voices from Frost Place, and Don't Call It That and is forthcoming in two anthologies:  Pinstripe Fedora and Valparaiso Poetry Review.  She has published numerous essays on sound structure in poetry in Poetics Today, Language and Style, Composition Studies, The Encyclopedia of Twentieth Century American Poetry, and other places.  Most recently, her essays on meter, prosody, versification, and stylistics appear in the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, Fourth Edition.  Her awards include the 2006 Larry Neal Award for Poetry, as well as awards and grants from The District of Columbia Commission on the Arts, NEH, the Vermont Studio Center, and other foundations.  She lives with her husband John, a visual artist, in downtown Washington, D.C.



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