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Joanne Durham

Next Time

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


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