JC Reilly

Spring Thaw

Thus begins the feast of Ēostre:  in glorious mud,

whose root is mudde meaning mother 

for the Goddess who bore the world 


in water and earth.  The snow has melted, 

and left the ground sopping, an afterbirth.  

Robins and hares hopping through plashes 


leave their tracks behind, as does the vixen 

who minds not at all the spattered paws

of the pups who follow her to the den. 


Mud glossy as coffee beans that nourishes

the land again for this year’s growth:

already, crocuses and daffodils, dwarf iris 


and hellebore pop up in gardens or along paths

where the mud parts to let them through.

Soon will sprout the chickweed and clover,


a higgedly-piggedly of green that will overcome

brown and wet, to spread like honey.  But for now,

this mud is good, this mother is so good.


Rescue

She finds the rabbit screaming

in a trap someone had laid, its leg snapped

and bleeding, the iron tearing

through brown fur and sinew like a mouth. 

She cannot extricate the rabbit here,

not and treat the wound. Bracing

the damnable trap so it doesn’t pull further

on the leg, she carries the creature carefully

as she can from the woods into her home. 


Once inside, the rabbit whimpers 

and trembles while she pries apart the clamp, 

murmurs be well be well be well 

soft as leaves.  Free, it hobbles a few steps

then stills, watchful. There’s no time.

She sets to work, grabbing strips of linen, 

soap, and water. Then she mashes together 

in her mortar garlic and comfrey to heal wounds, 

chamomile to reduce pain, rose for calm,

yarrow and witch hazel to stem the blood.


This she mixes with warm butter

and a little flour into a paste.  She trucks

the lot beside the rabbit, and, as if sensing

she’ll do no more harm, it accepts 

her gentle bathing, the press of the poultice

against its leg, the bandage that she ties.

She rests both hands lightly on its back, whispers


The sting is deep and the ache severe

What you’ve endured no longer fear

Hasten now:  your strength appear

Let healing come from far and near


Sleep, little one, she croons, as the rose

begins to take effect and the rabbit closes 

its eyes.  There is much yet to do to nurse

this guest that’s come to stay:

a bed to make, more herbs to mix, a litany to pray.

Omen

on the wind tonight    a strange   

perfume

lavender and stone   moss and    musk

     nothing  of the salty    Gulf      intrudes

    and the moon    is like  a dull   potato

       that rolls in and    out of linen-bag    clouds


  you are too weary again   my love

       but not from the     sea the floorboards creak

as you stagger    to your bedchamber

    a cloak of mist   and belt of guilt pulled

  tightly about your shoulders    and hips


   you don’t stop to say     goodnight

      or peek in on    sleeping    children

    and I know    better   than to    question you

when I bring you     dinner of figs   and cheese

            decanted wine       and dates     

lavender

     does not    suit your  aura as     you take    the food

and  I slip back into the hall      

lavender

grows  like spears of     treachery at this     place

Mary Magdalene in Ecstasy
Artemisia Gentileschi, ca. 1620s (Private Collection)

Fingers crossed over her knees,

as if to prolong the moment

of her last shattering, breath held,

she leans into rapture like a cat

in wondrous light. Her neck extends,

her hair loosens, the barest swell

of her breast pushes against the swoops

and billows of her white taffeta blouse

gushing off her shoulders. She is decent,

but only just. The peony blush

staining her cheeks and chin, her lips

too-rose but closed, could be holy

delight. The same pink hint

peeps at the top of her frayed bodice.

Perhaps, her heart is burning through.

Or perhaps what’s left of a kiss,

of past pleasures under piety’s guise?

She does not wear a halo yet.

At the Wal-Mart Store in Cut Off, Louisiana

On his slight shoulders, the Spiderman backpack 

seems too big, but Junior assures me that this is The One 

he wants to take to school next week.  He shrugs out of it, 

 

and I pop it in the shopping cart, its red face and white,  

blank eyes staring up amid the Cheerios and Capri Suns,  

laundry detergent, paper towels, and deli ham.  

 

We choose colors, pencils, erasers, notebooks,  

a three-ring binder—though what a first grader needs 

with a binder is anyone’s guess—then head over 

 

to Boys to find a Spiderman tee shirt for his first day, 

something Daddy promised him but somehow forgot. 

I listen to him chatter about being a big boy, 

 

and how his brother has it so easy, always being carried 

like a “kangaroo in a pouch” (a.k.a. the Baby Björn), 

and how he wishes Daddy would not stay out so late 

 

because he misses Daddy reading him a bedtime story. 

Almost by habit, I start to say, “Your father loves you—” 

but something in his dear moon face stops me,  

 

a little crinkle in his forehead, as if he steels himself  

for that too-familiar expression which always ends 

with “he’s just really busy.”  I bend down to squash him 

 

in a hug—he squirms at first (“Mommy, please!”), 

evasive as his own father when I try embracing him these days,  

but my little man relents, plants a tiny kiss on my cheek.  

 

“Let’s find you a Spiderman lunchbox,” I say, 

earning a smile from him.  What he doesn’t know  

about his father’s love can’t hurt him as much as what I do. 


JC Reilly is the author of the narrative poetry collection What Magick May Not Alter (Madville Publishing, 2020). She won the Sow's Ear Poetry Prize in 2020 for the forthcoming chapbook Amo e Canto, and she serves as the managing editor of Atlanta Review. Since the pandemic started, she has worn out all of her pajamas. Follow her @aishatonu.