The Imaginary Island
In this life, she slept on the beach,
her tent far enough from the waves
that, like sandpaper, had effaced
dogs and couples who came too close.
Black sand crept into her sleeping
bag. Its sharp grit did not wake her.
First light did. It squeezed past full clouds
that matched the ocean like clean sheets.
She knew there was life in the sea.
Summer birds wheeled above. Whales swam
far past this coast. Plastic clotted
in frigid waters, expanded
like kudzu sprawling to the south.
But then dry morning startled her.
It had not rained the night before.
Rocks, tumbled, glistened in sunlight.
The cliffs above her were shadows
that she could not and would not climb.
Bottles floating in the water
were more real.
Walking up Lincoln Street, 2021
The thrumming expands and makes
the sky bulge. Our world shrinks
to the sound of cicadas, brass stubs
that, like cigarette butts,
litter the ground.
On the sidewalk a few bugs
flutter then die.
Many cling to trees and fences,
leave behind beige shells.
One bug lands on me, as if
I am a tree, as if
I will last seventeen years
here on Lincoln Street.
Not even the trees and fences
may last this long.
Most cicadas clutter the concrete.
Bikes and sneakers crush them
into hard, colourless slabs
that seal off the earth
from anything alive.
Birds above pass unnoticed
despite bright colours, fierce sounds.
When I Accept that My Life is Evolving
Reeds and blue vervain overwhelm the stream
that, in July, is a frayed thread about to break.
Catbirds, looking like thin pigeons,
replace the red-winged blackbirds
that dashed across May’s faded reeds,
sometimes lighting on one, sometimes singing
as bronze turtles resurfaced
sometimes on land, sometimes in water.
Meditation on Green
droop, giant cut-out hearts,
a child’s Valentine’s Day in July.
Vines cluster on
the chain link fence, protecting
the beloved who peers out from the porch.
Grasses creep over
the uneven sidewalk
with lamb’s quarters and poison ivy not far behind.
The wind blows in
from the backyard,
bringing with it an edge of itch.
Milkweed and reeds
choke the swamp, trapping
the turtle that lives beneath phthalo green waters.
perch on the reeds.
They fly off. They return.
One bird sings
late at night when leaves and grass
become shadows. Owls hoot from another yard.
In the morning,
the sun shines,
turning locust leaves yellow, foreshadowing fall.
Originally published in Poppy Road Review, August 2018
Meditation on Mountains
In Nevada, they are made of
white gravel that bites
the eye. Eastern Oregon’s
from yellow dirt.
They towered over us,
blocking glimpses of the next town,
Fossil, its gas station,
its lone tree, its rocky bed
with the trickle of river.
I remember mountains
whose hems I touched:
Mt. Hood, Mt. Washington,
never daring to walk beyond
the warning signs.
I wonder what lies beneath
the East’s hills wound round
with green paths, vines,
waterfalls, and streams.
These hills were once mountains
but are now worn down by
time, wind, rain.
Marianne Szlyk is a professor of English and Reading at Montgomery College. Her poems have appeared in of/with, MacQueen's Quinterly, Setu, Verse-Virtual, Sequoyah Cherokee River Journal, Bourgeon, Beltway Poetry Quarterly, the Sligo Journal, and Mad Swirl as well as a few anthologies such as The Forgotten River. Her books On the Other Side of the Window and Poetry en Plein Air are available from Amazon and Bookshop. She has also led workshops where poets write tributes to both survivors of COVID-19 and those whom we have lost.
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