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Sample Poems by Carol Jennings
A Flickering Light

Why so much time
before I grasped
its place in my life?
Before I understood
the possibility
to bend and stretch,
fold it into poems,
stories, save it
for dark seasons,
follow it north or south,
depending upon month
and hemisphere, or
simply keep it in some
mind pocket until
needed to deflect
the dark.
As a child in thrall
to midsummer light,
enough to bicycle
home at nine o’clock,
with no thought about
the slant of it to come
as days shorten and insects
grow frantic and shrill
about sex and death,
I thought I could use it
all up, the euphoria,
reserve nothing for later.
Now I have mastered
the art, or perhaps trick,
of parsing it out
in lesser portions
to make it last,
the way a flickering light
can trick the eye to see it
as a constant, and knowing
this may be the antidote
to everything.

Poem Beginning with a Line of Rainer Maria Rilke

Every angel is terrifying
until you reach a certain time
when they begin to appear
in the half-awake dreams
of pre-dawn sleep,
especially in early summer
while cicadas vibrate a song
saved underground for 17 years.
They remind you not only of loss,
but of what you will do that day,
pick strawberries for breakfast,
sweep spent wings from the porch,
invite a spirit companion to share
your strawberries and describe
the possibility of another life,
a before or after life,
with a different tonality
and absence of rhyme.

After a Certain Age

Do not count the number
of funerals attended,
people who have professed
to love you, foreign
countries not visited,
vanishing rings of Saturn,
wrong notes played
in a Mozart sonata, or
inches of sea level rise.
And do not listen to
the noise that is news
nor the harsh words
of the Dies Irae.
You will know when
you have reached
that age.
Pay attention
to stars in the darkest skies,
planets visible to your unaided eye,
lengthening daylight
after winter solstice,
layers of igneous rock
in deep canyons,
your ancestors,
time as an artificial construction,
music that outlives its composer.


I moved to New York at 20 to let go
of things too familiar: streets named
for deciduous trees and an evergreen;
family who thought they knew me;
the melancholy of a room bound
in flowered wallpaper; love
for a physicist in love with
sub-atomic particles.

A young Michelangelo carved
Madonna of the Steps—Mary,
with such large hands, deep folds
in her garment, nursing her son.
He died at 88 leaving an unfinished
fourth Pieta, Mary holding upright
the body of her slain son, as if
she might will life back into him.

When is the moment to let go?—
your clasp of a child’s hand,
dead lover who invades dreams,
G major last chord with a long hold,
grasping the origin of the universe,
fear of a very dark angel.