Two Poems by Kari Gunter-Seymour

Because Autumn Always Clotheslines Me

Already the sumac—ripened,
rusty red leaves, stark among the greens.
Not yet, I say. I say it every August,
though leafy lime katydids warn me,
chameleoned against the Japanese maples,
suddenly out-singing even the cicadas.
Stink bugs feast in the garden, a melancholy
thistle bends to a rumor of breeze.

*

Power Out on the Mountain

I started out this day elbowing
my grandmother’s forget-me-not
teacup off the counter beside the sink.
Sobbed as I swept a million jagged
memories, scattered across the kitchen floor.

Now my feet up, a glass of sweet tea,
I watch birds at the feeder.
A quarrel of house sparrows peck
at the smalls, gorge themselves on seed,
as if they deserve to.

I once told my grandmother a rich man
hurt me. Her bent head told me
to keep that story to myself.
I revisit what it means to be ruined
over and over in my sleep, imagine ways
to dismember him, as if that might help
glue my own broken pieces back together.

*

Kari Gunter-Seymour’s poetry collections include A Place So Deep Inside America It Can’t Be Seen, winner of the 2020 Ohio Poet of the Year Award and Serving. Her poems appear in numerous journals and publications including Poem-A-Day, Verse Daily, Rattle, World Literature Today, The NY Times, and on her website: www.karigunterseymourpoet.com. A ninth generation Appalachian, she is the founder/executive director of the Women of Appalachia Project (WOAP) and editor of the WOAP anthology series, Women Speak. She is a recipient of a 2021 Academy of American Poets Laureate Fellowship and Poet Laureate of Ohio.

Two Poems by Sandra Kohler

Fall

In a nightmare my husband has converted
to a sect of fundamentalist Christianity and
is insisting I must do so also, otherwise I am
not “in the eyes of God.” It’s fall. The leaves
are falling. In the same dream, my husband’s
walking the dog and I am afraid he will fall.
Volatile fall. I am watching him too closely
and not closely enough. He should be back.
Have I missed the sound of his mother’s
clock striking? What do I miss? Safety.
Something I never had. I can’t imagine
wanting to be in the eyes of God. I want
to be in my husband’s eyes, in his good
graces, in his bed. He’s not at home. He
fell ill, is in the hospital, the ICU, I dream
of watching over him as I can’t these nights.
Waking, seeing my nightmare is dream,
my spirits rise. But he’s absent. It’s
autumn. My spirits fall with the leaves.

*

Seven Years

“It tires her to see the curve of heaven”
Aeneid, Book IV

Why does this line make me think about
my sister? On the seventh anniversary of
her death, I wake thinking of her once more,
of my connections with, my alienation from
her, my anger, my grief, my inability to let
either of them go, let her go, let myself be.

She was seven years older than I, when she
died she was the age I am today, if I died
today, I would be one with her. Just days
ago I found the grey sweater she knitted,
the only garment she ever made that fit me,
that I enjoyed wearing, and find myself

wanting to throw it away, be rid of it. How
to be rid of her? I can’t. If I forgave her,
would I be free? Perhaps I could. Forgive
her for being who she was, for failing me
both when I was a child after mother’s
death, and later, in our adult lives. Yet

I think I’m the one who needs to be
forgiven, for not visiting her in her last
years, the lost years at the end of her life.
Must I forgive her to forgive myself? Is
thinking of forgiving her doing so?
Repeating, retracting, reenacting this
past, present, I am as weary as Dido.

*

Sandra Kohler’s third collection of poems Improbable Music (Word
Press) appeared in May 2011. Earlier collections are The Country of
Women (Calyx, 1995) and The Ceremonies of Longing (University of
Pittsburgh Press, 2003). Her poems have appeared in journals, including
The New Republic, Beloit Poetry Journal, Prairie Schooner, and many
others over the past 45 years. In 2018, a poem of hers was chosen to be
part of Jenny Holzer’s permanent installation at the new Comcast
Technology Center in Philadelphia.