First Love Debunked by Andrea Potos

First Love Debunked
               for Win

It’s the second love
I remember, the boy
who baked a banana cream pie
from scratch
for our first dinner,

played a Brandenburg concerto
and told me that,
with orange juice, it was the best
hangover medicine,

the boy who whirled me around Milwaukee
in his red convertible MGB, and,
like a cliche come true, ran out of gas
on our first date.

The boy who, whenever
he came to pick me up,
paused before his rearview mirror
to straighten his wind-messed chestnut hair,
a gesture a girl might do, I’d watch him
through the sunroom window, he wanted
to be beautiful for me,
he landed on my doorstep like a prince, written
in a better story.

*

Andrea Potos is the author of several poetry collections, including Marrow of Summer and Mothershell, both from Kelsay Books; and A Stone to Carry Home from Salmon Poetry. A new collection entitled Her Joy Becomes is forthcoming from Fernwood Press this November. Recent poems appear in The Sun, Poetry East, and Lyric. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin.

Waiting Beside My Father by Andrea Potos

WAITING BESIDE MY FATHER

In the ICU room, ten days
where he coma-slept, arranged by the doctor
to rest his brain after the fall,
I sat beside him. I remember wearing
my slate-blue jacket with the big ruffle
at the collar, its cotton soft and somehow
reassuring on my body as I watched
the nurses glide by in the gleaming hallways,
and the kind hospitalist arrived with a lift
of hope in his voice. Inside me, I felt a small, carved
chapel of patience I didn’t know I possessed.
I closed my eyes, apologized to my father
for years of crabbiness between us.
I felt his brain smoothing out its frenzy, as if floating
on a long journey, as if a river
was carrying us, though
I had never learned to swim.

*

Andrea Potos is the author of several poetry collections, including Marrow of Summer and Mothershell, both from Kelsay Books; and A Stone to Carry Home from Salmon Poetry. A new collection entitled Her Joy Becomes is forthcoming from Fernwood Press this November. Recent poems appear in The Sun, Poetry East, and Lyric. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin.

My Father and Pavarotti by Andrea Potos

My Father and Pavarotti

On my stereo this morning,
just as I lean in to write, Pavarotti
came on, his aria filling the whole room.
I’m not schooled enough to know
which aria, only how my father loved him
and how, leaving his crabbiness aside, my father
would sit watching the Lake Michigan surf
from his living room window while the great man sang
over the speakers that filled the house;
and on the patio of his Southern winter home,
he listened, while the lapis surface of the pool sparkled;
then in the last years of the rehab home where he lived
with his rescued brain, a small carved canyon still visible
where the surgeon had rushed in. Once a week I drove
the eighty miles to sit with him there, his silver hair
still blazing, his eyes closed as we absorbed the pure notes
of the rich tenor who sang to my father still.

*

This poem is forthcoming in Andrea’s collection Her Joy Becomes (Fernwood Press, fall, 2022).

*

Andrea Potos is the author of several poetry collections, most recently Marrow of Summer (Kelsay Books) and Mothershell (Kelsay Books). A new collection entitled Her Joy Becomes is due out from Fernwood Press in the fall of 2022. She has poems forthcoming in The Sun Magazine, Poetry East, Spiritus Journal, and The Path to Kindness: Poems of Connection and Joy (Storey Publishing, April 2022).

TOO MANY PHOTOGRAPHS OF MY FATHER by Andrea Potos

TOO MANY PHOTOGRAPHS OF MY FATHER

In frames, on poster boards, on tabletops
in the downstairs parlor of the funeral home
that humid evening in mid-August, low lighting
from wall sconces and brass lamps, loveseats
and chairs arranged to look like invitations,
so many people examining and exclaiming over all
that proof of my father’s long and irrepressible life;
I could only glance from a distance, I wanted only
to stand halfway between the overwrought mahogany
coffin my stepmother picked out, and the back of the room
where water was being served, surely it should have
been wine, my father merited the good wine I said to myself
standing there among the murmuring and respectful living,
holding on to my center the way I knew how
somewhere in the middle of the room.

*

Andrea Potos is the author of several poetry collections, most recently Marrow of Summer and Mothershell, both from Kelsay Books; and A Stone to Carry Home from Salmon Poetry. You can find her poems many places online and in print, most recently in Spirituality & Health Magazine, Braided Way, Buddhist Poetry Review, and Poetry East. She is actively working on a new collection of poems entitled Her Joy Becomes.

One Poem by Andrea Potos

ANOTHER ANNIVERSARY OF MY MOTHER’S PASSING

Her joy becomes my joy. —
         Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer

This June morning, flickering light and shadow
on the spread pages of my book
while somewhere above me in the arching
and waving branches of the beeches, one cardinal
keeps throbbing an unceasing song.
And the sky–did I mention the cloudless sky?
The softest blue, as if created
with the pastels of a master, then brushed across
with the gentlest sweep of her arm.

*

Andrea Potos is the author of several poetry collections, most recently Marrow of Summer and Mothershell, both from Kelsay Books; and A Stone to Carry Home from Salmon Poetry. You can find her poems many places online and in print, most recently in Spirituality & Health Magazine, Braided Way, Buddhist Poetry Review, and Poetry East. She is actively working on a new collection of poems, generated from the epigraph on this poem, called “Her Joy Becomes.”

Visiting the Hospice by Andrea Potos

Visiting the Hospice

Call it heaven already–
air of ochre light, art on the walls–
a mosaiced Balinese dancer, a cathedral of orchids.
I glimpse siderooms filled with books,
leather sofas to sink inside, windows
with green views of paths winding
somewhere I cannot see.
Along the spacious hallways,
no one hurries.
Each person who greets me
carries a stillness I long to keep.
My friend sleeps most of the day now;
at the door of his room, I pause,
knowing the safety of his passage.

*

Andrea Potos is author of several poetry collections, most recently Mothershell (Kelsay Books), A Stone to Carry Home (Salmon Poetry, Ireland), and Arrows of Light (Iris Press). Another collection is forthcoming in summer of 2021 entitled Marrow of Summer. She received the William Stafford Prize in Poetry, and several Outstanding Achievement Awards in Poetry from the Wisconsin Library Association. Her poems can be found widely in print and online. “Visiting the Hospice” is included in Potos’ collection Marrow of Summer forthcoming in June 2021 from Kelsay Books.

Three Poems by Andrea Potos

TRYING TO TEACH MY MOTHER TO CROCHET

I wanted something for her hands–
the dusky blue crochet hook I bought for her
and blue acrylic yarn the color
of the Greek sea near the long ago
city of her birth.

She didn’t ask for this lesson.
In her steady kindness, she went along
with me, trying to match her fingers
to the flow of looping yarn.
I worried she wouldn’t continue
when her mind told her
she needed another cigarette,

though the cancer had already set in both lungs
and her treatment begun. I never considered
how she might want to live her last months or years
doing what gave her balm, the familiar comfort
to inhale, taste and release a swirling elegance
of smoke. All I knew was my own need
to halt what had already begun, to keep her
present and seamlessly shawled around us.

*

WIG SHOPPING WITH MOM

Though after five months of chemo, her hair
was only thinned a little,
she had a free wig coming,
the nurse said. We visited the room
of floor-to-ceiling shelves: mannequin
heads, and baskets of scarves and wraps.
Mom settled in; we giggled, comparing
thoughts as she smiled for my cellphone camera:
dark auburn with short curls, layered
brunette waves, medium shaggy, sideways parts;
one wig with streaks of silver like surprise hints of lightning.
In no rush to agree on the one and decide,
we wanted to stay in that brief clearing
of complimentary joy. We never even considered
choosing anything other than hope.

*

CREATING

I think of my Yaya, all those hours
at her Singer sewing machine,
or sitting with her skeins of yarn,
or the thimble on her finger as she
basted and lined
the pleats of the drapes,
the hems of the dresses and skirts and coats,
as she embroidered the doilies and linens,
the pillowcases and sheets.

All I have are my pens, scatterings
of dark blue or black, sometimes purple
or green, depending on the mood,
hoping my hand aligns somehow with hers as
I make small stitches of words across paper
that, sometimes, feels like rough cotton,
sometimes like silk.

*

“Wig Shopping with Mom” and “Creating” are included in Potos’ collection Marrow of Summer forthcoming in Summer 2021.

*

Andrea Potos is author of several poetry collections, most recently Mothershell (Kelsay Books), A Stone to Carry Home (Salmon Poetry, Ireland), and Arrows of Light (Iris Press). Another collection is forthcoming in summer of 2021 entitled Marrow of Summer. She received the William Stafford Prize in Poetry, and several Outstanding Achievement Awards in Poetry from the Wisconsin Library Association. Her poems can be found widely in print and online. Both “Wig Shopping with Mom” and “Creating” are included in Potos’ collection Marrow of Summer forthcoming in Summer 2021.

Sleep Skills by Andrea Potos

Sleep Skills

These days I wake up tired
after hours skimming sleep’s
surface like a hungry bird, waiting.
They say it’s a fact of growing older,
to lose the skill for sleep infants
and teenagers mindlessly have.

I think of my Yaya, when I was a girl,
she was already dressed before first light;
her body telling her it was time
to live the day, tend to her needles and thread,
her yarn; and in her kitchen, the flour and water
in their porcelain bowls; a woman waiting for the morning
to rise under her hands.

*

Andrea Potos is author of several poetry collections, most recently Mothershell (Kelsay Books), A Stone to Carry Home (Salmon Poetry, Ireland), and Arrows of Light (Iris Press). Another collection is forthcoming in summer of 2021 entitled Marrow of Summer. She received the William Stafford Prize in Poetry, and several Outstanding Achievement Awards in Poetry from the Wisconsin Library Association. Her poems can be found widely in print and online.