The human world
kicks you in the head
again and again—
so you must seek beyond the No,
the song of dried beech leaves
ringing in the brittle wind,
a hollow tone to shiver you
like a tuning fork,
so the healing bell inside yourself
will resound, in quietness,
and Yes and Yes.
We walked downhill
to the beach, her hand in mine,
small step, after small step.
She said Hi to the doggie on the leash,
Hi Mommy, to a woman passing
on the street, Hi Daddy, to a bearded man.
On the sand, she stared transfixed,
at the water, the slight waves,
the tide not yet pulling out.
She looked up, toward a flap of wings.
Bird, I said, pointing at the seagull,
and she mimicked, Bird,
then turned her gaze back,
to the waves’ slow slapping.
Later I sat, looking at trees below me,
a hint of haze burning off the far bay,
the world busy working and sailing,
waking, while I sat waiting as Evie napped,
that quiet Maine morning,
the full tide of grandmotherhood,
lapping my shore.
I’ve placed her favorites—
fresh raspberries, string cheese,
a glass of milk in the giraffe cup—
on her high chair tray.
As she munches away,
swinging her short legs,
she asks thoughtfully,
Granma, are you
I continue my bite of oatmeal,
take a sip of coffee,
How about you?
She isn’t either…
as we both wonder
what to say next.
After I Attend a Talk by the Somali Refugee
Migrating south for my annual holiday,
I’m at ease on the bus to the ferry,
where I will cross a wide bay,
relax at the sea.
Wheels rumble beneath me,
like a dream of plenty—
yellow lilies in a field,
gardens rich with eggplants,
reminding me of home,
where my love,
a woman to whom I’m legally married,
awaits my return.
Soon I will breathe salt sea air,
while winds from another continent
ruffle my hair like one beloved,
as I delight in ocean surf,
gulls’ raucous calling,
the freedom of movement
others die for.
that Mary Oliver woke early,
and walked along the bay, as morning sun
tore the sheets of darkness from the sky.
It matters that she carried a notebook,
and cared to look into a kingfisher’s soul,
to dig in wet sand for clams,
in which she later tasted the salt sea,
erupting in her mouth, like sex—
that she let the soft body of her body love
what it loved, which was Molly.
It matters that she loved a woman.
It matters that we each wake
to stride our own snow dunes,
finding in each day something of value,
even the last ash leaf hanging on a winter limb,
shivering a bit, then falling into stillness,
over and over to lose ourselves
into something larger,
something better. It matters that I clutch
my stack of her books—those fields of light—
now that her body has gone
into the cottage of darkness.
Laura Foley is the author of seven poetry collections. Why I Never Finished My Dissertation received a starred Kirkus Review, was among their top poetry books of 2019, and won an Eric Hoffer Award. Her collection It’s This is forthcoming from Salmon Press in 2021. Her poems have won numerous awards, and national recognition—read frequently by Garrison Keillor on The Writers Almanac; appearing in Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry. Laura lives with her wife, Clara Gimenez, among the hills of Vermont. www.laurafoley.net