West is everywhere
when your breath itself
is all that carries you
anywhere but here
When you carry a sack of used bandages
from your child-shocked history
and a sack of clean ones for your future
West is where you go
when you have finally become an expatriate
of everything you ever swallowed or slept in
AWOL from yourself, you find yourself
having tea and marveling at
the architecture, even if it’s built of grief
In this new city of you
evenings still make you nervous
but hands in pockets you stroll
taking that daily constitution
you have finally allowed and vowed yourself
The House. My house. Was it painted blue?
No. That was the sky above it.
Sky-blue. And the sky’s reflection
in the river running alongside it. Dark blue.
Depending on the slants of light.
And the eyes in that house. Oh, the eyes!
Watching the robin’s nest in the ash tree.
Bird egg blue. Precarious sticks.
Resilient Scraps. Storm after loud storm.
At times those eyes mirroring the lightning.
Holding it there and letting it crackle. Drink after
Mother’s drink. Rough hand after Father’s rough hand.
Then the silence after the silence. A gray blue.
A forgotten blue. The color of faded clapboard.
This is the third time today
I have gone up in a smoke of color.
It’s not so much that color appears
suddenly and I am burned down by it.
It is more like color speaks brilliantly
then leaves me with mixed messages
and I am laid low by them. I am down
on one knee offering the greenness of grass
my head—here, it’s yours—or the clear blueness
of sky my neck—take it!—But to the rose, I bow
and whisper—I too once had a memory
as red and sharp as you. I don’t know where
my memory will go when I am gone—tell me
please, flower of all our anniversaries—where
do you go each year when the whiteness comes?
(Inspired by the painting Visitation # 3 by Betty Bodian, 1994)
S Stephanie’s poetry, fiction and book reviews have appeared in many literary magazines such as Birmingham Poetry Review, Café Review, Cease, Cows, Rattle, St. Petersburg Review, Southern Indiana Review, The Southern Review, The Sun, Third Coast, and Wickford Art Association. She has three chapbooks out, teaches composition and creative writing on the college and community level in New Hampshire, and respects cats. Currently she is an adjunct for New England College at the Institute of Art and Design in Manchester. You can visit her website at http://sstephanie.com/ .