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Poetry By
  Kevin M. Coll

Published on: 6/16/2011
Such Stuff

I dreamt last night about Marjorie Sandor --
"about" her's not right, but she was in the dream,
some kind of help to me in a dark house
I didn't know. Other people were there, too,
and important stuff was happening,
but I could not hang on to anything,
and as I woke the names and faces burned
away like fog in morning sun, only faster.
Marjorie's face was last, and I grabbed hold.
I lay in bed and said her name and thought
about when I had known her fifteen years
ago in Gainesville, where she was my teacher
and thesis advisor in graduate school,
a lovely, tiny woman with a wry
sense of humor and graceful prose style.
She laughed at my stuff in all the right places
and read I.B. Singer stories aloud.
I was half in love with her; so was my wife.
One summer we lived in her pretty house --
the one by the duck pond, among tall trees --
while she and her baby daughter (Hannah)
and husband (Bob, I think) went to the mountains.
I can't recall the house in much detail.
I remember, though, the fall day I came there
from the hospital -- Henry'd just been born --
to bring our news and a late short story.
Eyes wide, I was high on adrenaline,
floating, unmoored to any earthly thing.
I didn't know what to do with my joy.
She put her hands on my shoulders and sat
me down at the dining room table. "Wait here,"
she said, and when she came back she carried
a brown bottle and a small, fancy glass.
"You should remember this day," she said,
and set down the glass, and poured the bourbon.
I couldn't believe it: she wasn't prim,
but she seemed innocent, contained, and ... petite,
and I'd never pictured her drinking whiskey.
"What in the world -- " I began, but "Drink!"
she said, and I did. God, the heat of that stuff
going down! I was suddenly calm, ready
for the next thing, whatever it would be.
We moved away after that and into
the rest of our lives -- babies and new jobs --
and I did not stay in touch, forgetting
about her for years at a time except
when her next book came out, which I would read.
One revealed that she'd moved to the mountains
and then divorced: she'd had -- suffered, really --
an affair. Just as with the whiskey, I
felt surprised and moved by all I didn't know.
In my dream last night -- or this morning, in fact --
I had the sense that it was she and that
in the dark house where she was helping me
I could know her again as she was. Coming
awake, I reached and tried to gather her up,
to hold in my hands the sense of her -- talking,
laughing -- but she dissolved until all
that was left was her name, and I woke
and said, "I dreamt about Marjorie Sandor."
I said it again to prove it was true.

Published on: 6/16/2011
Dietary Law

Eat first the vivid sauce and pasta O's.
The meatball eaten early is pure loss,
So store the treasure in a pile that grows

To please you on your plate, like chunks of gold
(Washed clean of slop) emerging in a sluice.
Eat first the vivid sauce and empty O's

That you might gently clear away with slow
And careful scrapes what's not the end or cause.
Then store the treasure in a pile that grows

Before your avid eyes, earned, prized, your own.
You'd like to plunge, but no: refrain and pause.
Eat first the brilliant sauce and livid O's

And so impose your will. Exert control.
Keep. Save. Defy time's ruthless, hungry jaws
And hoard the pleasure. In a pile that grows

While you decline, gather what you can know.
Each meatball says the same -- what's gone is lost --
So eat the vivid sauce and pasta O's,
And store the treasure in a pile that grows.

Published on: 6/14/2011

A rose is not a rose
without curvaceous toes.

The petals of her feet,
compact and round and sweet,

first blossom in the spring,
red as a cardinal's wing.

My toes, bare patrimony,
are angular and bony,

each sharper than the other.
Her toes are from her mother.

Published on: 6/14/2011
Flowers From a Neighbor's Garden
For Hannah Bloom, Age 8

What is a day but a stem fraught with hours?
From your mother's garden you brought me flowers,
Recently snipped, arranged in a vase:
A spray of purple in three or four shades,
Green leaves and stems, a few flashes of white.
You stood on my porch in the heat and light,
Barefoot and quiet, serious, solemn,
Glancing from me to your sweet-smelling burden:
Lily of the valley, for sweetness and tears.
Columbine, dove-like, the flight of the years.
Verbena, for prayers, and bellflower, sinning.
Lilac, for memory and love just beginning.

Into the house I brought your dark flowers
To the room where I'd been reading, for hours,
In a self-imposed twilight of partly-drawn shades.
I picked up my book to block out the vase,
Which sat on the sill where it soaked up the light,
Lilac-scent spilling from flowers of white,
Suffusing the air with the sweet-stepping burden,
Barefoot like you, serious, solemn.
The story I read - The Flight of the Years -
Got mixed up with lilac and sweetness and tears.
Here is my prayer, and some of my sinning:
Let lilac be always and love just beginning.

Published on: 6/14/2011
The Pool

We came around the final bend
And there it was, between the trees:
The pool, blue-green in the last light,
Hushed, serene, but not quite empty.
A young woman floated there.
At pool's edge we stood and stared,

And Rosie took my hand. "Daddy,"
She said, "who's here?" I couldn't speak,
And raised one finger to my lips:
I didn't want the spell to break.
The sky was mirrored in the water.
I stood beside my only daughter.

The woman drifted in the deep,
Back arched across a narrow float.
Bare and brown, her belly curved
Into the air, a lovely bow
That stole away my living breath.
The silence was like church, or death.

Arms spread wide. Hair afloat behind
Her like a fan. Bent knees. Painted toes.
Her lips moved lightly in private song.
She was a figure of sleek repose
Whose eyes were closed in pure delight.
Her belly and breasts gleamed in the light.

My daughter tugged on my hand,
Said "Daddy" in a certain way.
I coughed for show, dramatically,
And the young woman splashed awake.
She smiled and blinked her eyes,
but didn't seem surprised,

Just adjusted her bikini top,
Paddled to the edge, and climbed out.
Sitting cross-legged on the shore,
She wrapped her hair in a towel,
Which became a blue-green turban.
She closed her eyes: Had swum. Swam.

And now it was our turn to swim.
Rosie kicked off her shoes and leapt,
a cannonball (nine out of ten)
that splashed the woman where she sat.
(She smiled, eyes shut, and did not move.)
"Daddy, get in." I had to choose,

But of course there was no choice to make.
I removed my shirt, stashed our things,
Then, with calculated grace
And a running headlong start, dove in.
Oh, I gave myself to water's ways,
And in the fading light we played

Sharks and minnows (I was the shark)
And Marco Polo, in which, blind,
I sought my girl around the pool.
(Giggling, she wasn't hard to find.)
I did not -- could not -- look to see
The woman on the shore, but the trees

Behind her stirred and whispered soft.
And when Rosie swam off to plumb
The depths -- "Look, I'll touch the bottom" --
I watched as, sinking fast, the sun
Lit up the facing stand of oak,
Maple, and beech. One tree seemed to glow,

A lone sycamore whose trunk
Was lightly bowed and whose skin,
Patched and peeled, shone a brilliant white.
It was the bow that drew me in,
The fleshly bend, the gentle sway.
I could not tear my eyes away.

And then Rosie (my fish, my flesh,
My little otter) surfaced near me.
"Why are you staring at that tree?"
She said. "Stop staring. Play with me."
I obeyed. But first, in a final blaze
The sun went down behind the ridge.
As the woods went dark, one tree flamed.
I saw that sycamore in flames.

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