Three Poems by J. C. Todd

Forced From Home

A bloom, the season’s first,
today, and a half-dozen buds
topping stems that shoot up
from a ruff of trefoil leaves.

Thirty-five years in a window box,
this single plant that once flourished
and seeded itself along the border
of a garden someone else now tends.

Thirty-five years in box,
one foot wide, three feet long,
one foot deep, reseeding
a single companion

to tilt with it toward the sun’s
narrow threading down
past shingle, brick, and siding,
into the arid, shadowed grove

of urban structures
where this migrant
has been transplanted.
Soil boosted, composted,

watered, mulched, and tended,
everything that can be done
to make a home for it, although
a holding cell is not a home.


Home as a Foreign Place

what’s been torn down
I revisit through language
a language of longing, solo
speaker, rooms empty of her
listening, except in memory
where I, having lived on
reassemble in sound
a monoculture of loss


Zemaitijos Gatve, Vilnius

I walk into their stairwell
where they passed up and down,
the granite steps dished out and chipped
by generations who went before them,
books tucked under arms—
books of prayer, laws, poems,
books of history, science, and tales
that made their way from mouth to page,
from air to ink, weighty books
tucked under coats for protection,
padding the hollows of bellies
in the starving times of winter or war.
Packed into five floors of flats, they shivered
and sweated, ate and argued, prayed and rested
and read, and then they were gone.
The gates to the ghetto were opened.
They were driven out, herded into trucks
and rail cars. 1943. You know this story, don’t you?

I’m looking back to where I can’t have been,
wishing for a girl or boy who reads them
out of the terrible dark that’s closing in.


J. C. Todd is the author of Beyond Repair, (2021) a special selection for the Able Muse Press Book Award, and The Damages of Morning (Moonstone Press (2018), a finalist for the 2019 Eric Hoffer Award, as well as chapbooks and collaborative artist books. She is one of ten winners in the 2021 National Poetry Competition of the Poetry Society of the United Kingdom. Winner of the 2016 Rita Dove Poetry Prize, with fellowships from the Pew Foundation and Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, she is a poet with the Dodge Poetry Program, Murphy Writing of Stockton University, and leads independent poetry workshops.

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