Thursday 23 February 2023

Five Poems by Marianne Szlyk


At Lake Greenbelt


Three ducks paddled above murky waters,
above untroubled weeds.  Was it enough
to watch them?  We had ridden from Rockville,

city that has its own parks.  We haven’t
visited them all.  Some have ponds with ducks.
We didn’t need to ride Metro with masks.                                                                                                                  

Just then I smelled salt.  The sea was not far
for these ducks.  For them, this lake was just one
more stop as they flew north to raise their chicks.

I saw the turtle’s breath swell the surface
of the quiet waters.  Branches could be
turtles; they could be tree limbs fallen from

last week’s wind.  An ancient head popped up,
just far enough from our conversation
about the boat that had sunk in a storm,

about the trips we could no longer make.
Several yards out, turtles sliced through murk,
much faster than I had expected.  They

swam as they always do, as they always have
across this man-made lake, across all lakes,
across all the small ponds we can walk to.


Why I Walk Up Rockville Pike


Because I like how thick legs feel
as I push through humidity;
as I climb the gentle rise,
the concrete path back to Rockville.

Because, after yoga, I must do
something with this body – shoulders
that have lowered, clicked into place;
elbows that bent but did not collapse
beneath my weight; hands and forearms
that bore me for some seconds
in wheel pose.

Because I want to see what’s there --
deer that appear among bushes and
grass at the country club, street
of paper-walled condos we might have
lived on, begonias at the complex
that reminds me of where I lived
in Indiana.

There, not feeling my body, I fluttered,
a fat, dull moth, along S.R. 26.


Here, a woman in late middle age,
I trudge on.


After Dwight William Tryon’s “Winter” (1893)


The ancient mountains to the west
transform into a calm, almost-frozen ocean
just out of reach.


Dusk changes into dawn.  Thin, yellow
light is the same without clouds,
without garnet washes and purple smudges.


The snow in the foreground reveals
colours other than dazzling white:  blue
from an earlier sky; browns from


half-buried bushes, from earth and
stone; green scuffs; and yellow straw
from fall’s grass and flowers.


The snow turns into the beach
at low tide with only
its sheen of salt water.


Only trees, bushes, and stone walls
in the middle resist the transformation.
They put up obstacles, keeping ocean


from overtaking earth.

Originally published in The Pangolin Review.


Winter: Central Park

            After Dwight William Tryon’s “Winter: Central Park” (1890)


Somehow this view of Manhattan from 1890 seems more manageable, especially when seen in a museum.  The landscape could be anywhere without translucent skyscrapers or smaller, denser buildings pressing in on the park, without buses, cars, or trucks forming a noose around this space, without people swarming through and around it.  Rapid fire bebop’s drums and trumpets are far into the future.  Hip-hop is further still.


She knows that there were many slums in 1890.  She has read about the apartments with no windows, only air shafts, about the stunted children, about the coal dust clinging everywhere.  Horses fouled the streets.  She knows about Typhoid Mary.  Her great aunt survived that disease. 


But this winter scene is harmonious.  The city in the distance reminds her of an ocean as the tide comes in.


Melting snow still white
between blurred trees coal dust

gilds the overcast sky


On the First Day of the New Year

Bright grass glistens, free from last year’s
hard frost and long drought. Bare street trees
quicken with moss, with rough lichen.

Loose oak leaves skitter down sidewalks.
A red-tailed hawk circles above,
a house-mouse in the reeds its prey.

Last year’s angels are gone; perhaps
they’ll return once this year ages.
Some lights linger for the Three Kings.

I stand by the stream that runs through
Maryvale Park.  Minute flies rise.
Below, beneath mud and thick stone,

turtles dream.  A few more warm days,
and even the wary turtle
will stir.

                                               photo by Alan Gann

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 and Pure Slush's anthologies Home and 25 Miles from Home. Recently she published a chapbook Why We Never Visited the Elms with Poetry Pacific Press.  Her books On the Other Side of the Window and Poetry en Plein Air are also available from Amazon and Bookshop.


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