Sliding Toward Winter (& other poems)

by Arlene Metrick

Slant of sun on my face, its rays waxing now,
it’s set in the sky speaks of change, of dark
that sneaks in earlier, hours between dawn and dusk
squeezed, of bird and their songs migrating south,
clouds colored faintly of steel, goldenrod waving
its bright yellow farewell to summer.

This body finds rising harder, the dark settling
in all my crevices, and early evening chill soaks
deeper in my knees.

Summer’s departure rides atop my sister’s passing,
too young, too soon, her voiceless voice whispers
in my ear, her laugh in my cells, her sons’ calls
remind me, as if I could ever forget.

And my heart continues to beat, breath born each
moment, as fall begins its descent into winter, holds
its mystery tight under hardened soil knowing
it will be reborn into spring.

Will I still be here?



Wrap around needs, who says life is fair
or that I deserve to have the garden
of my life the way I want it?

No matter the path, blue grass, splayed
trees, a body that doesn’t decline, a lack
of loss everywhere, my sister returned
from the dead so we can talk, maybe have
Thanksgiving dinner on Zoom, share
grandbaby photos across the coasts, find
the perfect partner, ride off into the sunset.

Impossible needs winking, stuck singing
a plaintive song of lack, stuck with its on-off
switch ON, its mouth spread, hands open, palms
turned up, eyeballs reaching out of their orbits
storm the treasury of stored desires, rampant running,
endless hungry ghosts on the loose.

Screaming open wound of endless longing begins
at the bottoms of my feet, rough surface scraping
the bareness of them, winds its way up the body,
not satisfied ‘til sparks shoot from the tips of my hair,
sage smoke rising like perfume cleansing the air of
ancestor blood that stains, seeps into all it touches,
that kind of stain that can’t ever be washed out.

What if I said I want to know my forbears, the ones I lost
in the Holocaust obliterating even their memories? Maybe
I can see their shoes neatly arranged in the museum next to
the soaps made from the melted fat of their burning bodies.
Can I scream loud enough, long enough to bring them back?

Isn’t is enough that my grandparents escaped the pogroms
at the beginning of the last century, met, married, bore
children who also bore children? Isn’t the fact of my own blood
coursing through the vessels of my child and now in my tiny
grandchild enough? Shouldn’t it be?


Jazz in the Time of Covid

Music of the mower as it rumbles across the grass,
its grinding and groaning, the simplicity of a man
and his machine, cutting, clipping, cavorting
as they make their way across the lawns, trails, bending
the body low over the electric cat when the branches
kneel down, giant rubber ears to protect his real ones,
tilting into holes in the land, riding his horse in service
to us who wish to walk on the short shades of green,
recline on a smooth blanket of blades of the same height.
Each stalk asserts itself, proclaims its independence
from the tribe.

Unlike a jazz band, simplicity of a man and his horn,
who must listen to each other, even on a zoom screen,
riffing while giving everything they have, instruments
like voices rising high, higher over the mountain tops
they’ve launched for themselves, sway in their bodies
and in their music, direct from their hearts to ours,
needing to imagine us listening, absorbing, reveling
as they thrust themselves into their screens, trusting
their offerings are blasting over airwaves, and through
our speakers or headphones, by some magic I don’t understand,
from wherever they are in their separate spaces, anywhere
on our small blue planet to our homes or streets, our cabins
or forests where the signal makes its way to our ears.

And what about the grass, each green sweetness
now shorn, a community of separate stalks, perhaps
thrilled with their careful cut, silently preening,
each proud of their new style?

“Look at me,” says one. “No, you look at ME,” says another,
waving in the fall wind, glad to be together with their friends
waiting for the lady of the house to inhale their new mown
smell, walk barefoot, scrunch her toes, delight in the coolness
of them and of the earth in which they stand. They have been
singing to her and now she can finally open and hear their song.