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Lesley Kimball

Our Lady of the Marsh

your blackbirds impossibly perched on reeds

wearing the gatekeepers’ red stripe on their wings  // sympathizer’s

striking terrible desire in my hands. Can you forgive

my mother the cattails in the living room? Or me

my fingers wearing off the velvet in spots?

Beyond the heron dark water ripples. Unmoved, he appears

to stand on dry land instead of your grasping mud leaf bed.

He waits for a fish and you, you wait for me to mistake

your wrinkled surface for safe passage. The blackbirds warn—cicada-buzz

bookended with birdsong, drawing me to murky lust and anger.

Do you hear me? Are you distracted by darkness and strange fish?

Of what use could your forgiveness be now?

I sit with my mother, she waits like a heron but for nothing.

Even when I startle at a bump against the screen,

she doesn’t blink. What do you take in return for cattails?

What do you take to your mud, bind in black silk?

I will submit to the scolding of blackbirds

but I will not worship you. Our lady.

Queen of the hidden. Brackish saint.


The light blows in through the window and my

father shivers in the hospital bed. I imagine his skin

rippling over ancient muscle, picture the draft horses’

flanks flashing, itchy with sweat and sun.

When we went to fairs to watch horse pulls,

the teams descendants of the ones he drove

through snow, midges, and darkness to move logs

from those woods to the river. Just before the load

of unthinkable weight is released, the horses tense,

frozen forward power; and I, leaning against his side,

can feel my dad’s power, irresistible urge to leap

off the bleachers his shoulders remembering pulling.

So close to a force that could crush me under hard

smooth weight, once unleashed unstoppable until bowed

by overwhelming resistance, yet still straining –

divine, redeeming, glory.

The Auction

I don’t dare hold the aperitif glasses, flutes,

weeping pitchers but imagine my fingertips tracing

their rough etchings, the curve from stem to foot.

I can’t be trusted with glass. Move on to rolled up rugs

leaning on pie safes, painted blanket chests, needlepoint

samplers. I turn away from a faded burgundy smoking

jacket and paintings of sad-eyed children. Turn

from the loneliness of brooches, the unsteadiness

of tea trays. No one winds up the music boxes. Everyone

sits and the auctioneer introduces items. They sell or not.

She winds up the bidding: All in? All in? Gavel. All in

and all done. Bidders are keepers, the curious, the bereft.

I live someplace new, empty except for a mattress, one

bookshelf, echoing wood floor. I left things behind,

don’t want to bring anything in that I don’t love.

What about that end table next to the couch I don’t have?

Those wall sconces for reading in a bed that isn’t there?

Mirror-backed hutch. Brass candlesticks. The glass-

ware doesn’t sell; not enough thirst or light in the world.

The auction over, I lift an unsold champagne flute, furred

with dust, from a box of 20 at least, unmatched. The cashier

waves my $10 bill away, all in and all done.

I imagine every glass shattering as I drive. I imagine

washing each one in the light of the window over the sink.

Lesley Kimball’s poems have appeared in Salamander, Constellations, Port Smith, Omphalos, Café Review, Ballard Street, and several anthologies. Poems of hers can also be found in the NH Poet Laureate’s Showcase and as part of a sculpture/poem installation. As a librarian, she enjoys the feeling of power over words, except when they fight back. Lesley lives (with too many dogs and just the right number of husbands and daughters) and writes in New Hampshire.

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