poetry

Michelle Holland

 Winter 2001

External Validity


Ars Poetica

I           Sirens

Women like islands, or stars in the sky,
make sounds they know are not whining,
cross oceans with the wind,
suck up each traveler's energy.

Make me name you,
help me find where your sound begins,
point toward the light
that I simply can't explain in chemical reactions.

II         Bull's Eye

The big constellation bull,
stuck in a static charge into the galaxy,
sports an eye that will soon implode.
The eye of Taurus, a red giant star,
will grow and grow until its fuel is gone.

I organize the stars,
make a story that fits the noise
of history I have learned,
take for granted the light years
that separate the night sky from earth.
When Taurus loses his eye altogether,
I will probably be the last to know.

III        Sirens

I have extended myself
past the decimal point,
covered myself with blankets of minutiae.
The grains of sand need to be counted;
the fragments of my days
that flake off like rust
need careful analysis.

Lines of cars follow me up the hill
each early morning and I follow
a trail of redlights.  Sirens
occasionally warn of roadblocks or accidents.

On this planet, the light arrived
a long time ago.
The sirens have been calling me for years.
I search for the source of the impulse,

but I don't see anything yet in my rear-view mirror.


Mother's Day

Who will nest now?
Who will collect strands of hair off the fence
when I have lost my ability to love unconditionally,
to love at all except for trade?
My instincts are fading.
I don't want to remember my babies.

But this is the day to remember.
I have a blood cycle of ripeness and rot.
I can have babies,
be reproductive,
though my urge to procreate had little to do
with all that came later
fixing my daughter lunch,
arranging ride pools,
playing catch,
or remembering the pink balloons
for her birthday party.

When the new doctor holds my chart,
looks over the clipboard of blanks
I tried to fill without thinking,
asks me to answer a few more questions,
the story doesn't change. I admit,
I've been pregnant three times,
one abortion, one I gave up because I was sick and young.
I have one daughter now, at home,
my only child.

Still, I disappoint her.
I forget her dance tights,
make her sit in front of cold peas,
hold up barriers and dare her
to break them.


External Validity

At Goat Spring, our flat campsite
fills with three girls' voices.
Fat robins and thrashers all feathers and motion
join at the water's edge, and other animals
gather fifty yards away. 

We hear them rustling leaves
to taunt us with their nearness.

The girls climb a slanted tree,
fallen in fire or wind or old age,
propped by another living tree.
They climb like bears,
clutch the sides and tell me
what they see from the top.

Turkey tracks scramble
on the path to the seasonal pond.
We are high.
The black ants gather at the foot of the trees
where we sit to eat
our squirrelly lunch, pockets of bread,
Vienna sausage, dried fruit, just enough water.

We brush the ants - like a mission -
off the back of my husband's trousers,
and we all move to lay down against rocks
and nap next to the green thin tall grass of the pond.
Patches of deeper water that escaped evaporation
shimmer with light and birds' wings as they dive.
We close our collective eyes and still the day.

The tinder dry needles that whirl
in quirky dust devils under the ponderosas
will be subdued in the first day of rain.
After forty-one days of blue sky and hot wind
the degrees will fall, a brief, desert respite against
the green sigh of one day cool without sun.

We don't know the rain will come
tomorrow when we are home
airing out packs and washing red sandy socks.
We are thankful for the cool breeze
and the downhill walk back to camp.

News to You, My Teen-age Daughter

Mothers love their daughters
with a passion that is never extinguished. 
An extension of me.
your DNA, your eyes, your chin, your temper,
all carry me with them.

Though, I admit, you are also a separate,
loud, assertive being in the world
who feels every moment
as if it were the only moment ever
felt by anyone at any time. 

You exhaust me,
as you exhaust yourself. 
And each heave of breath,
each sigh of contentment, disgust, frustration,
or love is necessary
to build the person you want to be. 

I have known you for as long as your forever.
From your absolute first breath you have been
a part from me, a part of me.
As much as you rail at the world
for your hard fought independence,
or seek me out when you need someone
to pit yourself against,
you cannot break the ultimate bond
that binds our selves, our love, together. 


Promise

I want this rain,
the cool late April early May melting snow rain
of upstate New York,
the gentle rain
pat, pat on the hood
of my raincoat in time to the falling of my feet
on the soggy forest floor.

I walk out
from a place I know we won't keep.
Our losses are too deeply imbedded
in this tiny plot we cleared for a house.
We won't build
this life we won't start,
not here anyway,
for now, though, there is rain.

See the snow in some places,
against tree trunks, under the rock ledges,
makes the path slick.

Glimpse as life begins again against the grey sky,
in almost full knotty buds on tree branches,
and in the tiny curl of fiddle heads,
and listen, I turn my head inside the raincoat hood,
hear in the distance, down by the marsh,
the spring peepers.

My feet are warm in tall rubber boots,
three layers of socks - cotton, wool, wool,
the kind to wear mucking out stalls.

I walk our property line,
along the old stone wall
surrounding our twelve acre woodlot
rocks all fallen down that used to mark

the edges of planted fields.
 I walk and search for signs,
the promise of green in the pace
of steady rain, late afternoon.

I search out from our small mobile home,
forget the warmth of forced heat and quilts,
turn my back for awhile on the empty promises
packed and kept inside our empty house.

* * *

Years later, here in the desert,

thousands of miles from ferns and moss,
thousands of miles from all that we buried,

the monsoon rain urges me out of our house.
I peer through drops of down pour,
listen for peepers - and I'm not disappointed.

I ride our appaloosa out after a late summer rain
to the earthen cattle tank

surrounded by rushes and cottonwoods.
The noisy drone of spadefoot toads
celebrates their ephemeral existence
as their voices rise over the dam to greet me.

Like the seasonal amphibians,

I rely on the rain and thunder to call to me,

tempt me out, to follow a promise,

trust there's a way to go back, start again.

 

 

Michelle Holland teaches creative writing and English at Oñate High School in Las Cruces. She is the co-poetry editor of The Sin Fronteras Journal. Her poetry has been anthologized in The Practice of Peace, and Written with a Spoon: A Poet's Cookbook (Sherman Asher Publishing), and her work has appeared in such literary journals as Puerto Del Sol and Journal of New Jersey Poets. The University of South Carolina's Palanquin Press recently published her first collection of poetry, Love in the Real World, (1999).



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