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Sample Poems by Marcene Gandolfo

Your Birthday That Was Not

is an empty white
calendar square
though I rise from bed
heavy as though you
were with me.

As a child, I dreamed
that I woke floating
in a still, warm ocean.
Then I swam toward
an island that I could
not reach. My arms,
turning the water over,
loved this swimming
without ending, opening
into waking, shadows
on the window, arms
limp at my sides.

Once I thought
if I were still
you would not fall
away from me.
Now when I look
at the clouds
I feel you moving
away, no matter
where I stand.

Every day when I wake
and wash my face, I feel
my body turning
away from you.

I scribble on a blank
page, still turning
to feel you, alive
in every error.

In the Angle of Departure

I believed even the least
light could flood darkness.
Once a stream of fireflies
led me off a broken
highway. I believed
in the map's veracity,
destination's promise,
the window's candle
whispering me home.

Now you tell me that home
is just a stony cavern
at the edge of a desert.
Together we drive
the "Loneliest Road
in America." Obsidian
mountains loom over
monstrous wings of ravens
that cross our path.

Tonight we enter
the blackening desert.
Our headlights are useless
against this thick
shadow ache. It's too late
to turn back. You push
the pedal down. We drive
into the eye of the raven
and fly blind.


One must imagine Sisyphus happy.

When my daughter finds
a one-winged ladybug
crawling in the gravel
she carries its torn body
down the driveway to find
the perfect leafy home.

I don't tell her I've been
watching all along from
the window as I wrap
a present for my friend
coming home from
the hospital again.

I draped the gift
in ribbons, opened
my scissors like a dagger
and curled the strands
around my blade
until they spiraled
out of my hands.

When my daughter calls
from the garden,
I walk out to find
her ladybug
trying to climb
a safe leaf,
lifting its wing.

A Careful Angle

beginning with a line from Tomas Transtromer

The morning air delivers its letters
with stamps that glow.

The children love the light and dust
that seeps through the mail slot.

Some days your truths are shoes
that won't fit:

so unlike the message that lies
in your doorway.

There's a technique to opening
another address,

a careful angle by which you unveil.