Day of 100,000 Dead
May 25, 2020
A slight wind, and the apple trees,
cherry trees, clustering red-seed
maples drop their blossoms
into soft circles of pink and white
on the grass, each circle a place
where beauty would bloom
one more time—each petal a face
still alive to us, whispering.
How do we take up these petals?
How do we do this?
Locked down inside our houses,
sanitized and vigilant, our stores
of dried beans, our zoom calls
like trains of waving passengers
pressed against the windows,
passing us by, passing us by.
Meanwhile, spring arrives again,
and our small planet orbits and
rotates in predictable patterns,
pulls a dark trail of suffering
into one more sunset, one more
day’s tally of death. Heavy
and slow with disbelief, we mask
ourselves, keep a safe distance
as dreams run aground, the world
reels, wrecks itself in chaos.
What can we do for the fragile
heads of the dying?
How do we hold them in our laps
while they fade and vanish?
How do we pray?
How do we carry them?
Antigone Buries Polynices
I am told it does not matter where the grains of earth fall on you.
Unlike windblown dust
or tossed-up bits behind turning wheels
these grains carried in a square of cloth
woven by our distraught
are deliberate grains and wholly
shared with you from childhood when we would hide inside
the farthest grove of trees
and let our freakish fates grow
wise and clear
as only otherkindly creatures can.
where they hoped to find limping aberrations
they found instead pretty children playing ponies in the dirt
and so I let sift through my fingers this sand to your face your nose,
your suppurating mouth and pruning eyes where flies
whisper and feast within a cloud of stink such grit
as can be forged between those so displaced
that we would find at last at last a path
into the trees of welcomed souls and so seal
with spit such precious water from my mouth to yours
as contains our fatherbrother’s tears and most merciful hopes.
And now they come.
To My Rumored Other Sister (whispered sister)
I count back the years to your red braids
where it ended
Watch closely now
A sister lost is a swallowed self
are you watching me now?
I’m a sad and
the more I crawled along my olive branch
the more angry you were Oldest
of the three
who's setting you free
was I not your lauded sister
from the foaming river
From the lies
you've been told
the unhinged house
When they're breaking your back?
A loved sister
Bring your last straw to me
I packed my bags and sent you foreign postcards
(straw to gold)
left you to handle it alone
gonna need you later…
Don't look down
you won’t forgive
(haunted sister) Color it lonely…
Home early from school I stood rooted
heard you secret-sing / become
Barbra Streisand in the basement
…the room I sleep in
Walk in…weep in
that nobody sees
you were so
but truth be told
the most gifted
lyrics from “Watch Closely Now,” Kris Kristofferson, A Star is Born, 1976
“My Coloring Book,” The Second Barbra Streisand Album, 1963
Linda Aldrich currently serves as Portland, Maine’s sixth Poet Laureate and has published two collections of poetry, Foothold (2008) and March and Mad Women (2012). Her poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, among them Indiana Review, Cimarron Review, Elixir, The Denver Quarterly, Ellipsis, The Florida Review, The Ilanot Review, Poet Lore, Third Coast, Puerto del Sol, Snake Nation Review, Words and Images, Solstice Literary Magazine, The Café Review, and most recently, Balancing Act II: An Anthology of 50 Maine Women. Linda was awarded a Hewnoaks writing residency in 2017, and her poem “Woman-without-Arms” won the Emily Dickinson Award from Universities West Press. A graduate of Vermont College’s MFA program, she co-hosts with Marcia F. Brown the monthly reading series “Local Buzz” in Cape Elizabeth, now in its ninth year, and hosts the “Leaf of Voices” reading series at the Portland Public Library. For more information about the poetry of Linda Aldrich, visit her website at https://www.lindaaldrichpoetry.com/.