Christine Penney

Hope Walks on Thin Ice


I pick a dandelion

its yellow life gone.

Scrunch up my eyes

take a deep breath, blow

wisps of hope into the air.


I fear cracks on lakes

broken vows and my father.


Prayer

a steeple of fingers rests

on my grandmother Ruby’s

quilt of violets and lily

of the valley.


The ice calls me or is it

my father?


I hug a tree, my cheek

against rough bark, ridges

like tiny rivers of hope.


Still


the ice calls.

 

Let Me Go but Hold Me


French corsets

pink ribbons tied

in sailor knots


gather up my pieces

break and mark

me yours.


I am a map

of blue veins you follow

to my salt and honey


sticks sweet to your fingers

your hazel eyes in mine

deeper as wave after wave


lifts me, throws me down

crushing my body on stones

as the undertow rips me away.

“You are mine”

his muffled last words.

I catch a fish

between my teeth

its tail thrashing.

 

On High


He would have savored

the rinsing of his insides

with wine and spices,

meeting death

a bit tipsy.


I saw him wrapped

in linen sheets lying

in a sarcophagus

like an Egyptian king.


I placed beside him

things he might need

on the other side.

His red-pocket bible,

Yankee cap, the syringe

he would hide

in his crumpled sock.


In a dream

my body on top of his

floated amid towers

of salt, rising out

of turquoise waters.

 

Party at Peabody Cemetery


Mother rises from her grave, swings

through the gates of Cemetery Avenue

heels hovering above the wet earth

happy in the company of so many

prestigious souls.


She works the graveyard like it’s her

salon. Chester Harding, the portrait

painter, wants mom to pose for him


in the nude. Rev. Peabody slinks

away in disgust.

She laughs, throws her head back,

sways over to Pete Seeger’s dad.

He teaches her “Good Night, Irene.”

She sings it like a torch song off key,

to the Civil War soldiers.

nothing like men in uniforms


They applaud, hoot, raise

their glasses to toast her.

One by one they ask if they

might have the next dance.

She’s the “it” girl of the dead.

 

Elegy to Myself


I improvised a life

arrived too late to apologize.


Became so light I rode a red balloon

to tease the stars.


Are there star cemeteries ?

Who would dare shovel a thing so bright


into a cold worm hole. I have stolen what

was not given, gave


what was not asked for, steam-rolled love

as I walked away.


I dig a hole, fill it

with peaches and peonies

Moss covers me. I am warm.

I squeeze a lemon till it explodes in yellow,


Inhale coffee beans born

between Capricorn and Cancer.


I apologize for dying.


 

Christine Penney lives in New York City. She acted in the Bay Area and in many black box stages in NYC. She co-wrote a one-woman show about the life of German Artist Kathe Kollwitz and played her. Came to writing late and had her first poem published in 2021. She workshopped with Ellen Bass, Bill Zavatsky, Jericho Brown and Erin Redfern. She read with the Poets and Writers Intergenerational Program and the Word Shed.