Linda Aldrich

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

            of carriages

these grains carried in a square of cloth 

            woven by our distraught 

            mother 

      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.  


                                             Oh brother 


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 

guarded sister


             …master magician


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  

undaunted sister


flying us 

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

sister?


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


my

                          …not around


(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

              Hide in

             that nobody sees


oh  

you were so

crazy 

captured


sister 


but truth be told 


the most gifted


song-lifted



     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/.

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