Four poems by Faith Shearin


That night in your uncle’s house all hallways
were plunged into darkness and a fog

hung over his mountain, the moon too new
to be any use; I felt my way through the foreign

landscape of his living room: the piano closer
than it had been on my mind’s map, the cat

a low softness against my ankle, each table
rising suddenly, each doorknob a strange planet

in my hand. Returning from the bathroom
I mistook the library for our bedroom,

the couch for our bed. It was like this for ancient explorers
who were often wrong about where they landed:

Columbus who returned from Cuba convinced
he had visited the coast of China, John Cabot

who thought Nova Scotia was Asia; it was like this
for widows who lived alone in married rooms:

arms outstretched, hands searching.



I grew up on an island so you will say
it makes no sense to fear bridges

when my life has been surrounded
by water; you will point out the gorgeous

engineering of arches and beams,
cables and cantilevers, suspensions

and trestles, and you may name
the great ones: the Golden Gate glowing

red over the strait between San Francisco
and Maris County, the Rialto that spans

the Grand Canal of Venice,
the Wind and Rain bridges of China.

You will remind me of the Bering Strait:
mythic land bridge across which

humans must have migrated
from Asia to North America; I can only

say you have not swayed in a cottage
during hurricanes, or read about

tourists, asleep at the wheel, who
drive over low railings and cannot open

their sinking windows or doors; you
have not considered John Berryman’s

leap between Minneapolis
and St. Paul. Bridges are liminal spaces,

passages between one land mass
and another. Think of the failures: the collapse

of the Angers brought about by synchronized
soldiers, the Silver Bridge drifting

into the Ohio River, The Tacoma Narrows
giving way.


Watching Zombie Movies With Our Daughter

Mavis and I watched Zombie movies that first June
after you died; maybe you saw
us walking through rain

without umbrellas, along the avenues of Amherst
where peonies grew so fat they fainted
and children caught fireflies in their cupped hands,

opening their fingers to flickering light; we favored
a cinema with a triple feature, bought
popcorn and candy, sat at the back

where the seats were broken, behind rows
of strangers in hats, and considered
the undead: reaching through the silence

of cemeteries, digging their way
back to this world; we watched
zombies return to the neighborhoods

where they once rode bikes and climbed trees
and kissed and dreamed: skin chalky,
arms extended, slack-jawed, stumbling.


How You Loved Me 

Every February you left
a single carnation in my mailbox and,

the year I turned fifteen, you stopped sometimes
in front of my window,

walking home with a friend whose name
I’ve forgotten, the two of you out later

than everyone else because your families lived
across the road in the long, low houses of faculty row;

you threw snowballs to get my attention
and, even now, I put down my books and part the curtains,

your face on the other side of dark glass; I am told you
pulled a car over to the side of the road in Midland, Michigan,

1987, to tell a friend’s mother you meant to marry me
while I fed horses on a farm in Vermont,

utterly ignorant of my own importance,
and, in college, when the George Michael song Faith 

was released, you played it while driving, your windows
rolled down, belief mixing with desire; you sent love letters

to me in New York City where I unfolded them
on trains, the world blurring; I didn’t deserve to be loved

like that and I still think the person you longed for
lived in the acres of your own imagination

where the flesh of cherries reddened
in the orchards off Old Mission Peninsula,

their blossoms refusing to fall.


Faith Shearin’s books of poetry include: The Owl Question (May Swenson Award), Moving the Piano, Telling the Bees, Orpheus,Turning (Dogfish Poetry Prize), Darwin’s Daughter, and Lost Language (forthcoming Press 53). She has received awards from Yaddo, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. Her poems have been read aloud on The Writer’s Almanac and included in American Life in Poetry. She lives in Amherst, Massachusetts.