Kelli Russell Agodon
Of A Forgotten Sea
Sometimes, I forget the sun
sinking into ocean.
Desert is only a handful of sand
held by my daughter.
In her palm,
she holds small creatures,
tracks an ant, a flea
moving over each grain.
She brings them to places
she thinks are safe:
an island of driftwood,
the knot of a blackberry bush,
a continent of grass.
Fire ants carried on sticks,
potato bugs scooped
into the crease of a newspaper.
She tries to help them
before the patterns of tides
reach their lives.
She knows about families
who fold together like hands,
a horizon of tanks moving forward.
Here war is only newsprint.
How easy it is not to think about it
as we sleep beneath our quiet sky,
slip ourselves into foam, neglectful
waves appearing endless.
The Next Poem
seldom satisfies. Its the poem before that you
fell for, the one where you repeat the same lines
for weeks, keep going back to its page
for quick nuzzles or maybe the whole shebang
over and over until you aren’t sure if your hands
hold the book of if the poem is carrying you
to the bedroom, supporting your head as you rest
cheek against pillow. This is the poem
you don’t care that everyone knows you are seeing.
The one you proudly bring to social gatherings,
heck, even to family reunions with your strange
Aunt Sylvia who’s never liked any of your dates
and it doesn’t matter since you and the poem
will run off together before pie is served.
This is the poem you think about when the poet
who’s reading clutches note cards, keeps mentioning
hydrangeas, they way father drank too much,
something about origami, moths or egrets.
This is the poem you wait for as bus stops,
at places you once frequented together hoping
it will drop by, say your name across a crowded
restaurant and you will turn, spill your drink
when you see it again, how you remember why
you fell for it the moment it begins to speak.
Vacationing With Sylvia Plath
Maybe I should have come alone.
Maybe if the clouds didn’t resemble
tombstones and I had brought something
more upbeat to read
the ocean wouldn’t seem so final
an ongoing thought carried to shore
then taken away,
washing the same green sock
over and over again.
Maybe if I was taking medication
or at least St. Johns Wort,
maybe if I had a chocolate bar
to eat between breakdowns
the seagulls cry would be more of a sigh
and the waves wouldn’t seem so blue.
Maybe a lot of things. Maybe
if I could slip into Sylvias mind,
sort out the spices in her spice rack,
alphabetize them and dust them off.
Maybe then Id understand how
its the little things that pull you under.
What Comes After Because
Because there are too many pages in novels
we use books to hold open our apartment window,
balance the leg of a wobbly couch. Because squirrels
in city parks become so attached to humans, they disregard
personal space, climb my leg to reach the stale pita bread
I hold at my side. Because we never walk the long way
and always try to find shortcuts, we miss out on seeing
the old cork tree in the middle of Seattle, the one
you pass after leaving the art museum, three blocks before
The Lusty Lady. Because we look away from the man
in the street who needs our help, we will carry his face
on the back of our eyelids, the heavy thud when he fell
against cement, the sound of our footsteps obscured
After Hearing A Woman Say The Heart Is The
Same Size As An Apple
I begin to consider which one I keep in my chest.
A small pumping Fuji or Bailey Sweet.
I am part pie, part fritter, part turnover
in bed and listen to the thump thump thump of an Empire,
the whisper of Paula Red, the morning yawn of Sunrise.
When I say I love you I taste cinnamon,
sugar, my coated center beating
again. Never bitter, I toss the green ones
to Adam, halve another to find a star.
O sweet apple of my
unpeeling, pale white
skin appearing in your hands.
My mother picked the low ones from trees
planted the year I was born.
Every harvest, carrying ribs
of baskets to the orchard, we gathered for hours
and hours, my hands red, but I continued,
nothing more than a fist opening and closing.
-all poems previously published in The Alsop Review