Sample Poems by Sandra Kohler
The sky is an empty bowl, the light
is in Boston this morning. I don’t know
if he’s as happy in love as he was. Does he?
In a dream just before the alarm wakes me,
a man emptying a dishwasher puts pieces
of paper away with the dishes, notes
about who each piece of silver or glass
or china reminds him of. My life is like
the glasses this man is putting away, fragile
yet clear container of past and present, full
of signs of the people in it. Everywhere
shafts of language open into our lives.
A friend tells me how strange her husband
seems with his father; another, that his son’s
therapist said the child has the self-esteem
of an ant. Separating, parents find they have
divorced their children, not their shared past.
I cannot give up the trappings of motherhood,
my husband those of fatherhood. Love and
alienation are names defining the possible,
a world of interiors, artificial as all our homes.
No one moves freely in their gardens, rooms,
corridors, the spaces of art and order we’ve
created. We enter them trailing remnants
of bondage, old woes, the stories
and children of suffering.
Mary P. is mourning her porch, her birds, flowers,
wildflowers, weeds, her house, her life. She is stopped,
stunned, stuck in one place by the undoing of the under-
pinnings of her life. She lost her balance, she slipped and
fell. When she found herself again the world was changed.
She’d lost, in that loss of balance, her place: everything
was speeded up, she couldn’t catch it, catch up, move
in the rhythm of the world; against her will, her wishes,
she was moved by others, and so stopped moving,
changing, thinking. Stopped feeling the new, the flow
of feeling in response to movement, change, the motions
of being in and of the world. She feels what she felt
when she fell: upended, bewildered, uprooted, stopped.
She feels an anger – the only part of her that’s growing
now – rage at a they that caused her loss of porch,
birds, flowers, wildflowers, weeds, house, life: place.
Heron and Question
Fog again, the morning soaked in it.
In the garden, patches of cobwebs in low
clumps of flowers, nests of caught mist.
I need to walk, I need to remember my
dreams, I need....This is not the time
for lists. Birds strung on telephone wires
fly off as if falling, plunging straight
into blankness. This is a time and place
for anything. Anything goes. Gone was
my son’s first verb. I feel blank, plunging.
I talk to my sister and she is brittle, cheery,
shut. I am becoming cold, judgmental.
I will those who have married disaster
to rear the children of that union, owning
consequence. I forget all the ways I’ve walked
away from my acts over the years. Where is
the beginning and end of this fog? Dreaming
of unanchored branches that clutch at stony
rubble, leaf out, alive, from concrete, stone,
macadam, no soil at the roots, I imagine my
family ignores me, my brothers worry only
about my sister’s woes, I am left to make
my own way. Jealousy’s face is a sister’s,
the face of indifference a brother’s: both
reflect my own. What we know and what
we don’t know each wounds. At the river,
the heron gives a cry strange and awkward
as its stance, its elegant neck curved into
a question like the white wisps that rise
from the satin surface of the waters.