Four Poems by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer

After Reading a Romance at Midnight

For two hours, I am the woman
who works at the orphanage, the woman
who falls in love with a man from India
who is not who he says he is.
He and I make love for hours beneath a mirror,
twining our limbs in a sea of silk,
and he shows me the pleasure
of losing the stories I’ve told myself
about what is possible with love.
When, after many pages,
we arrive at happily ever after,
I find myself on the couch in my kitchen,
notice my own thick legs curled beneath me,
my own raw heart in my tired chest
doing its faithful work. I’m surprised
to return to my own story:
the woman who is grieving—
the woman alone
in the empty room who listens
for the voice that isn’t there,
who listens for footsteps that do not come.
For the last two hours, I had forgotten her,
had forgotten this woman
whose story I know as my own,
this woman who lost her son.
I had forgotten the ache she carries,
the constant throb. And though it cuts,
though it wounds,
I am so grateful to return to her life,
to her story—the story
of how she gave her everything
to someone she loved,
how she knows he loved her, too.
It’s not a story she had wanted to live,
but now that it’s hers
she would never give up a page
of their story. Not a single word.

*

My Son’s First Word

He pointed at the grass
beneath the cottonwood tree
and said “dado.”
Shadow? I asked.
Not ball, not mama,
not cat, not dad.
Shadow.
Already at one,
he was aware of both
what is and what isn’t here—
how sometimes the light
is intercepted.
After Finn died, I dreamt
a young boy taught me
how I could help my son’s
transformation by
guiding his energy
through the shadow
of a total eclipse,
a golden corona flaming
about the circumference.
All night, certain I was awake,
I pulled luminous swirls
through the dark center, and
Finn’s energy disappeared
into the heart of the shadow,
into the light beyond.
A shadow is nothing,
of course, which is to say
it is also everything. The way
my life is now steeped
in the shadow of his life,
the way the shape of him
follows me everywhere I go.

*

Today I Realize

I can still call your phone
and hear your voice mail.
And so I do, I call it,
and the low tones
of your familiar voice
reach all the way in
and squeeze my lungs.
This is you know who.
We are you know where.
Leave your you know what
you know when.
I hang up at the beep,
and then I’m gasping,
choking, making sounds
I don’t recognize.
And then the house is quiet.
The ache is like a time lapse
of a rose in bloom—
first clenched, then
opening and opening
and impossibly opening,
then fading, then dropping away.
Every day a new bouquet
of ways I miss you.
Today, I miss the deep
song of your voice,
how it opens in me
fragrant, like home.

*

Revival

The day your son died, the person you were died, too.
         —Mirabai Starr

Death came to her
as a blue sky day,
as a feral scream,
as an ambulance
with no need
for its siren.
Death came to her
saying, “Ma’am,
you don’t want
to see your son
this way.” Death
knew what it
was doing when
it erased everything
she’d thought
about how to meet
a day, when it scraped
her of who
she had been
and left her barren.
It was habit
that made her
brush her teeth,
routine that helped
her drive the car.
But it was life itself
that inspirited
her, slipping
like starlight
into her every
dark cell, life itself
that whispered
to her death-bent heart,
You are not done
yet with your
loving.

*

Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer co-hosts Emerging Form podcast on creative process, Secret Agents of Change (a surreptitious kindness cabal) and Soul Writers Circle. Her poetry has appeared on A Prairie Home Companion, PBS News Hour, O Magazine, Rattle, American Life in Poetry and her daily poetry blog, A Hundred Falling Veils. Her most recent collection, Hush, won the Halcyon Prize. Naked for Tea was a finalist for the Able Muse Book Award. One-word mantra: Adjust.

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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.”

5 Poems by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer

Allium

While I did not fix
the thing I most
wish to fix, and I
did not do
the most important
thing on my list,
and I did not save
anyone, and I did
not solve the world’s
problems, I did
plant the onion sets
in the garden,
pressed my fingers
into the dry earth,
knew myself as
a thin dry start.
Oh patience, good
self. This slow
and quiet growing,
this, too, is
what you are
here to do.

*

Turning to Physics

An electrical current
knows nothing of the path
it will take. It follows all paths,
but flows best toward
where it flows best.

It sounds so simple,
and yet the electrons of this body,
charged with my beliefs,
defy nature and rush toward resistance.

How often I try to fight myself.
How often I battle my own current,
the current of the world—
it’s like wading through honey instead of water,
this thinking I know best.

Sometimes, I see how my own resistance
is nothing but a part of the path.
In that moment, I flow toward where I flow best.
In that moment I am copper, ductile, tough,
In that moment, I am so alive with it, the buzz.

*

Wonder

I wear my wonder
like old running shoes—
not elegant,
not sophisticated,
surprisingly inappropriate
in certain rooms.
I notice how others
sometimes wrinkle their noses
at a blatant sporting of wonder,
thinking, perhaps, I must be oblivious
to the dress code:
stilettos of apathy,
high heels of indifference,
boots of cool reserve.
But dang, this wonder
gets me where I need to go
every inch,
every mile, even
across the room.
When everywhere I step
is broken glass,
wearing this wonder
is the only reason
I can move at all.

*

Belonging

Forgive me, please, when I,
thrilling in how much I love you,
believe you belong to me—
like a book or shirt or a ring.

Writing that short list,
it now seems strange
I believe I own anything.
I know well the unstitching of loss.

Let me learn to love you loosely
the way I love morning,
the way I love song,
the way I love hawks on the wing.

Let me love you the way
I love poems, startled
and grateful each time I find
it is I who belongs to them.

*

After the Tortoise Won the Race

It was the strangest thing.
She’d never cared before about winning.
Life had been about basking in the sun
at the entrance to her burrow.
Sometimes when she was warm enough,
she’d plod off in search of leaves.

Now, she thought about finish lines.
The feel of the ribbon on her prehistoric nose.
The roar of the crowd as she crossed.
They say tortoises don’t have feelings,
no hippocampus in their small brains,
but she’d felt it, the tug of success.

She spent decades looking for another race
she had a chance to win. None of her friends
could understand. Come dig in the sandy soil,
they said, but it wasn’t enough anymore.
She wished she’d never said yes to that race.
She wished she could race the hare again tonight.

She wished she could stop defining her life
by that one moment. Wished she could stop wishing
for any life beyond the life she had now,
sleeping in her burrow, cool and moist.
Wished all she wanted were soft weeds and long-leaf pines.
Wished she could hear that crowd. Just one more time.

*

Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer co-hosts Emerging Form, a podcast on creative process. She also co-hosts Telluride’s Talking Gourds Poetry Club and is co-founder of Secret Agents of Change. She teaches poetry for mindfulness retreats, women’s retreats, scientists, hospice and more. Her poetry has appeared in O Magazine, on A Prairie Home Companion, in Rattle.com and in Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry. Her most recent collection, Hush, won the Halcyon Prize. She is often found in the kitchen baking with her teenage children. One word mantra: Adjust. https://wordwoman.com/

Two Poems by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer

Ode to the Bic Lighter

My first lighter I found in a parking lot—
a smooth red plastic tube that fit
in my pocket. I knew playing with fire
was dangerous. I knew I wanted
to learn how. I remember trying again
and again to get the right purchase
with my thumb on the serrated sparkwheel.
I rolled and rolled until my skin was raw,
until at last the brief flame sputtered then died.
It wasn’t long before it came second nature—
the smooth flick needed to produce a spark,
the slight pressure on the red tongue
to maintain steady flame.
I learned how it burns
to be lit up too long,
but once you know how to make light,
how easy it is to bring it with you
everywhere you go.

*

Small Hope

Nudged by hope
the heart rises
from exhaustion.

It’s like the great blue heron
I saw this morning
flying up from a wasteland

on broad gray wings
with strong, slow beats
for a moment charged

with grace
before—did you
see this, heart?—

it chose to land again,
bringing all its beauty
to the desolate place.

*

Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer co-hosts Emerging Form, a podcast on creative process. She also co-hosts Telluride’s Talking Gourds Poetry Club and is co-founder of Secret Agents of Change. She teaches poetry for mindfulness retreats, women’s retreats, scientists, hospice and more. Her poetry has appeared in O Magazine, on A Prairie Home Companion, in Rattle.com and in Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry. Her most recent collection, Hush, won the Halcyon Prize. She is often found in the kitchen baking with her teenage children. One word mantra: Adjust. https://wordwoman.com/

ONE ART’s 2020 Pushcart Prize Nominations

Notice Breath

          for Julia

Notice Breath, my yoga teacher says.
It’s the year of Corona and I take her class
in New Jersey from my house across state lines,
and what I notice today is the lovely unspecificity.
Not notice my breath, or hers, just breath itself
moving unhitched, animating each of us.
One friend with the virus describes
a burning like inhaled chemical fumes.
Another, a pressure like a cheetah
chose her ribcage as a place to rest.
So, yes, these days I notice breath
the way you’d notice a bouquet
on your scarred kitchen table, gathered
bursts so bright at first it’s easy to forget
they’ve been clipped from their roots,
their fading not even all that slow.
Mother’s Day, I watched as two teenage girls
sung a hip hop love song to a masked and gloved
woman on her porch. They stayed on the walk
and I on my side of the street,
but when their song ended, the mom, or aunt
or favorite neighbor, crossed the divide,
took those girls in her arms, deciding
the feel of their heat and heartbeats and sweat
was worth daring the beast for once.
Every day, we’re made to weigh it like that,
sucking in our breath, letting it out
against paper or cloth,
noting its warmth as we do.

~ Notice Breath by Ona Gritz ~

*

March 21

First day of spring,
beneath the residue of last year’s leaves
the ghosts of November plants are stirring
their colorless first shoots
quickening into life.

Not everything that dies returns again:
the pansies, catchfly, marigolds
or my brother gone 50 years
and absent on this birthday
sealed in a past untouched by spring.

He lives solely in our minds
those engines that can pull time
only down a one way track
disappearing further each spring
in the rearview mirror.

To be human means to be forgotten,
the way the soil will soon forget
the new life it cradles this year:
the pansies, catchfly, marigolds
and all earth’s psalms that make
our brief lives beautiful.

~ March 21 by Michael Northen ~

*

In Times of Great Darkness

I want to do for you
what the sun does for me—
coax you to come
outside, to breathe in
the golden air.
I want to warm you
and enter you,
fill you with brilliance,
make your muscles melt,
make your mind shush.
I want to prepare for you
luminous paths
that span across deep space,
thaw any part of you
that feels frozen,
find any cracks
and slip shine into them.
I want to intensify
your shadow
so you might better know
your own shape.
I want to encourage you
to open, wider, wider,
want to teach you
to write your name
in light.

~ In Times of Great Darkness by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer ~

*

Miracle Carp Says End Is Near

Says this weather is abysmal, Lake Michigan
near freezing, or already frozen, so the human

animals skid over its surface, go low and
bend their faces narcissus-like into the mirror

glass of ice, their reflection shiny as scales,
as rainbow arpeggios. Miracle Carp says

swim like you want to outlive the Anthropocene,
says buck up chump, bank on no one’s promises.

Miracle Carp says any day now the ice caps.
Any day now the flood. Miracle Carp says dreams

of mud are prophetic. Says embrace the amphibious
more often than not. Says if you want to live, live

in the moment the way Miracle Carp lives in the body
of the water, a miracle no one finds very miraculous,

a fact that has not escaped Miracle Carp. Miracle
Carp says most miracles make fools of us all, says

Mostly we are busy looking the wrong way, making
too much noise. Miracle Carp says anxiety defines

this age but it will be known at the end as the age
of astigmatism, aptly, for all the miracles gone

completely unseen, even though they occur
right in front of our faces, right in front of our eyes,

like this one, the one about Miracle Carp, who knows,
knows better than anyone, what is about to happen.

~ Miracle Carp Says The End Is Near by Alicia Hoffman ~

*

Tending to Living Things

There must be a way
but all I know to do is throw
my white dishes rimmed with blue
orchids across a room
until all that I have is broken.

Except for one self-sufficient succulent,
I don’t know how to make anything live.
There must be a way
but I don’t know how.

I want to bury myself inside the dark. Stand inside
invented light. While the world falls apart,
my husband’s brain swells with lakes.

Pink roses that sprawl across the apartment
building’s metal fence don’t need me. I’m not
their caregiver of blossoming.

Grief does not ask me
to be pretty, does not ask me
to be a corsage pinned to a gown.
It wants me to push up from roots
that scarcely survived, enter
its plain door.

I want to push my husband in his wheelchair along our rutted
road as though Travelers Joy— Clematis vitalba
scrambling a lattice fence to flower next year.

~ Tending to Living Things by Amy Small-McKinney ~

*

Orange Pekoe

My brother offers us tea when we visit,
orange pekoe, our mother’s favorite brew,
and I’m surprised he’s held onto the old ways
for wasn’t he a dare-devil jumping from planes
loaded with his heavy gear, his night-vision goggles
and guns, a warrior and not one to set out the tea things:
a pitcher of milk, a sugar bowl, teaspoons.
And wasn’t he the soldier home from the war
who dared bring beer into the house
where our father forbade alcohol,
our two uncles, two drunks, stewed in degradation.
So I’m amused when he serves us tea,
proudly relating how he saves his squinched teabag
to make a second cup.
Here: a poem I’ve written about you.

A confused squinch
and he says,
            I didn’t think you thought about me.

Not a lot, I fail to say, but after this,
he likes me so much he sends me a sturdy fruit cake
each Christmas because I said I liked it,
once.

~ Orange Pekoe by Claire Keyes ~

*

Ona Gritz’s books include the poetry collections, Geode, a finalist for the Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award, and Border Songs: A Conversation in Poems, written with her husband Daniel Simpson. Her poems have appeared in Ploughshares, Catamaran Literary Reader, The Bellevue Literary Review, Beauty Is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability, and elsewhere. She and Daniel served as poetry editors for Referential Magazine and co-edited More Challenges For the Delusional, a writing guide and anthology featuring prompts by Peter Murphy. Ona is also a children’s author and essayist. Her nonfiction is listed among Notables in Best American Essays and Best Life Stories in Salon.

Michael Northen is the past editor of Wordgathering, A Journal of Disability and Poetry. He is co-editor of the anthology Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability and the disability short fiction anthology, The Right Way to Be Crippled and Naked. He is a founding member of the Disability Literature Consortium. An educator for more than 40 years, Northen has taught adults with physical disabilities, women on public assistance, prisoners, and rural and inner city children.

Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer co-hosts Emerging Form, a podcast on creative process. She also co-hosts Telluride’s Talking Gourds Poetry Club and is co-founder of Secret Agents of Change. She teaches poetry for mindfulness retreats, women’s retreats, scientists, hospice and more. Her poetry has appeared in O Magazine, on A Prairie Home Companion, in Rattle.com and in Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry. Her most recent collection, Hush, won the Halcyon Prize. She is often found in the kitchen baking with her teenage children. One word mantra: Adjust. https://wordwoman.com/

Originally from Pennsylvania, Alicia Hoffman now lives, writes, and teaches in Rochester, New York. Author of two collections, her recent poems can be found at Up the Staircase Quarterly, The Penn Review, Typishly, Radar Poetry, The Shore, and elsewhere. Find out more at: http://www.aliciamariehoffman.com

Amy Small-McKinney’s poetry has been published in numerous journals, for example, Connotation Press, Construction, American Poetry Review, The Indianapolis Review, Tiferet, Anomaly, Ilanot Review, Pedestal Magazine, and The Baltimore Review. Her poem “Birthplace” received Special Merits recognition by The Comstock Review for their 2019 Muriel Craft Bailey Poetry Contest. Her second full-length book of poems, Walking Toward Cranes, won the Kithara Book Prize 2016 (Glass Lyre Press). Small-McKinney’s reviews of poetry books have appeared in several journals, for example, Prairie Schooner. Her poems have also been translated into Romanian and Korean. She resides in Philadelphia where she teaches community poetry workshops and private students.

Claire Keyes is the author of two books of poetry, The Question of Rapture and What Diamonds Can Do. Her poems and reviews have appeared recently in Redheaded Stepchild, Mom Egg Review, Two Hawks Quarterly, and Persimmon Tree, among others. Her chapbook, Rising and Falling, won the Foothills Poetry Competition. Professor Emerita at Salem State University, she lives in Marblehead, Massachusetts where she conducts a monthly poetry salon.

Three Poems by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer

Setting

In every conversation
there is a table made of listening.
Sometimes the tables are beautiful,
solid, clean—the kind
that can support anything
you put on them.
Sometimes, they’re like
the tv dinner trays
of my childhood—
a little rickety, but they’ll do
if what’s put on them is light.
Sometimes they’re so cluttered
that whatever’s placed on their surface
is almost immediately lost.
Let tonight’s table have a small vase of flowers
and a candle perhaps, nothing else.
May it be small enough we might
see each other’s eyes, might notice
every nuance of breath. Whomever
I am most nervous to invite,
may I invite them. And though
the tea is just a metaphor,
may I offer. May they accept.

*

Tonight Is a Torn Map

Tonight is a torn map
and the woman
is a would-be voyager.
Once, she believed
there was a path.
Now, she believes
there are many.
Sitting still
beside the river,
she notices
the urge to rise,
notices when
the urge has passed.
Notices it rise again.
Being still
is one of the hardest
paths of all.
All around her
the world is moving—
gurgling, waving,
weaving, crawling,
climbing, winging, falling,
eroding. And in her,
more movement
than she dares to admit—
not just mudslides,
tectonic shifts—
every day the landscapes
change. Every day
the inner map she drew
looks less like what’s
really there.
It was no mistake
when it ripped.

*

In Times of Great Darkness

I want to do for you
what the sun does for me—
coax you to come
outside, to breathe in
the golden air.
I want to warm you
and enter you,
fill you with brilliance,
make your muscles melt,
make your mind shush.
I want to prepare for you
luminous paths
that span across deep space,
thaw any part of you
that feels frozen,
find any cracks
and slip shine into them.
I want to intensify
your shadow
so you might better know
your own shape.
I want to encourage you
to open, wider, wider,
want to teach you
to write your name
in light.

*

Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer co-hosts Emerging Form, a podcast on creative process. She also co-hosts Telluride’s Talking Gourds Poetry Club and is co-founder of Secret Agents of Change. She teaches poetry for mindfulness retreats, women’s retreats, scientists, hospice and more. Her poetry has appeared in O Magazine, on A Prairie Home Companion, in Rattle.com and in Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry. Her most recent collection, Hush, won the Halcyon Prize. She is often found in the kitchen baking with her teenage children. One word mantra: Adjust. https://wordwoman.com/