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Judy Kaber


They cross

the sea, all hands

with blood on them,

rust colored, heavy

bound tight. Holding

birds or minutes or

dirt. You can’t

trust them to mend,

always so under-

handed, with hat


Open or up, make

no mistake, they

lead you astray,

take matters you

once thought you

owned, twist them

into shadow puppets,

force them to move.

In the violet sky

before night, someone

lends you a hand as if

two aren’t enough as if

you aren’t an old hand

at this dictionary full of

shaking and wringing

waiting and washing

and waving.

Where Love Was Lost

In the blade of grass held between

thumbs, air blown, turning

lost whistle turning to defeat.

In the wispy dandelion head

that spread out across the lawn, so many

seeds falling in useless places.

In rough hands caressing knee, moving to thigh,

the drum of heart singing, stab of nervous laugh,

fear in smooth vinyl, in veins.

In old reel-to-reel tapes. Feverish symptoms.

Sleep deprived blues. Visions on white ceiling

refusing a future.

A mailbox empty, day after

daydayday. Notes shocked from an old piano,

always off-key. No telephone.

Lipstick-stained cigarette butts

in the ashtray. Red-shined

nails. Empty barstool.

Initials carved on the bridge handrail.

Abandoned farmhouse. A single mitten.

A naked doll. Chipped white cup.

The voices sparrowed from night.

Words gone, troweled over with moonlight.

Trees shine with sap.


Water so low stream becomes path,

something to believe in, rocks like fire

in the heat, current still as a turtle’s tail.

Tale already told like the figurines

my mother kept on boxy shelves, waiting

for me to lift them, free them of dust.

Dust and sweat streak the back of my neck

as I crouch remembering. Water striders

create ripples on a watery screen.

Screen the past from the present, try

to stay in the moment like some holy roller

biting back oblivion. Thoughts I swallow.

Swallows flitting back and forth, nest

above the outside light. My garden so hungry

for water. I should get out the hose.

Hose my legs off, remnants of salt, soap,

threads from spider webs. Savor the coolness.

Recall the sanctity of water.


Judy Kaber is the Poet Laureate of Belfast, Maine, and author of three chapbooks, most recently “A Pandemic Alphabet.” Her poems have appeared in journals such as Poet Lore, december, Hunger Mountain, and Spillway. She won the 2021 Maine Poetry Contest and was a finalist for a 2022 Maine Literary Award.


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