Kneeling to scrub the floor, the tangy smell
of vinegar suffuses me, my rag loosens
the tiny nibs of dirt ground into wood. They rise
like bubbles eager for release. There’s pleasure
in seeing the grains regain their lightness.
Such a long time it took me to learn
no elf or genie would tend to it.
Even the garden I somehow expected
to keep its shape, the rhododendron to purple
year after year without pruning or feeding. The ivy,
leaves poking along the side of the house,
seemed just a casual visitor until one day
I saw how it was tangled all through the azaleas,
smothering their roots. I still think
that there’s another chance
for everything. I’d have more kids next time,
wouldn’t be afraid to scramble down the mountain
to the hidden hollow of the Pacific coast.
It would be some different version of myself
who accompanies the old me only as far
as the ticket counter, bids me a good journey
as I clutch my sagging suitcase,
grab the railing with the other hand
and hoist myself onto the outbound train.
Ode to the Brick Wall
that bounced my ball between my palms.
An easy aim - above
our second-floor apartment,
into a circle of bricks, mosaic
arched cathedral. I pitched
my rubber ball against
those bricks, over and over,
a litany, ritual, chant.
I didn’t know such words
but I knew how good
it felt to be alone
in evening breeze,
launching the ball square
inside that circle. Ballerinas
and pet ponies rebounded
off those bricks,
tunes warbled from my throat
backed by a chorus
of wind, ricocheted
worries of bike crashes,
roller coasters, taunts
of scaredy-cat and spaz.
It wasn’t honeysuckle blooming
along the sidewalk’s edge, scent
so sweet bees languished
there all summer, or sunflowers
that poked through crabgrass
that sustained me.
It was those bricks, returning
that ball every time.
Joanne Durham is the author of "To Drink from a Wider Bowl," winner of the Sinclair Poetry Prize (Evening Street Press 2022) and the forthcoming "On Shifting Shoals" (Kelsay Books). Her poems appear in Poetry South, NC Literary Review, Dodging the Rain and many other journals and anthologies. She lives on the North Carolina coast, with the ocean as her backyard and muse. Visit her at https://www.joannedurham.com/.