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
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.