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Sample Poems by Christine Potter
Poem Addressed To the Last Day of a Warm Spell in November
You wait for someone, pacing circles in mud
odorous with leaf mold. One maple’s yet
in sulfurous flame. You wait for someone
famous who wouldn’t recognize either of us,
who met you once in a bar and signed a napkin.
Outside, it blew from your grasp, and the sky
was finally well-deep and smashed full of stars.
It was cold, then. The bottom of your coat
flapped open like laughter as you walked—
but today’s breeze is harmless,
temperate as your breath. Tell me
this is who you really are, you bland no-season,
you misfire, you name I have forgotten.
Your dithering wears on my nerves.
Tonight almost certainly will bring thunder,
clarity, and dropping temperatures.
And in three days, remembrance
of endings and openings, the front walk
firm under my feet—then snow. Someone’s
waiting for me there. And you? You can go.
Eastern Standard Time
I loved the early dark when I was nine:
stars before suppertime, snared
in a net of branches bared by last week’s
storm. Flat on the floor with a book,
I’d felt the thunder in my stomach.
The season is breaking up, Mother said,
as if it were nothing that all of Autumn
could explode. Somehow, I was spared,
in school again and used to it—two
whole months gone. One night,
everyone’s clock circled back
exactly one hour, curling into winter
the way you’d roll over in bed.
It was cold. It would stay cold. Storms
would be noiseless things, stealthy
outside classroom windows, white sparks
spangling the empty swings
unseen until someone called out,
It’s snowing! and didn’t raise his hand.
We’d walk home at almost-dusk,
sing “Do, A Deer” in fake-operatic voices,
that flicker of shrinking days magical,
even holy—like the urge to sprint
the last block home not out of fear,
but joy, our sides aching, the new,
harmless night chill and gentle o
n our cheeks. We gulped air like
chocolate milk, thinking only of Christmas.
Walking to Heaven at Girl Scout Camp
The paper boats we lit with candles
were supposed to be a hundred wishes,
at least one for each of us, a kindly metropolis
blinking in the haze over the lake.
We were supposed to remember that glitter
the last night before we went home, silver
and gold friends sung to in clouds
of wet wood smoke and gnats at campfires,
but mostly I recall the walk uphill to our tents
after each flame had drowned. I followed
the girls in front of me, the dock path
long and strange, locked in darkness.
How was it we weren’t lost, trusting
only in the flock and our memories of day?
We could have been refugees; could have
lost our bodies, lost even our steps’ scratch
on the stony paths that poked through
the soles of our sneakers. Some girls wept
and hugged each other, but I kept to myself.
I thought about my too-hot sleeping bag,
the plastic smell of my parents’ Ford, due
the next morning. Those things were certain,
even in blackness, but it was still hard to say.
We could have been walking to Heaven;
we could have—all of us—just slipped away.
My father was more than a family photographer.
He was way better than snap shots. No one, he said,
should do anything for free. The Christmas picture
of my sister and me decorating an aluminum tree
with Lighted Ice bulbs was taken before Halloween:
front cover for the employee magazine at the firm
where he underwrote insurance, his day job.
I wore ruby lipstick at thirteen to get stuck up
behind the glass counter of a jewelry store
for his freelance account. Vivid makeup, he said.
Shows up better in black and white. Bobby pins
pulled my Twiggy-straight hair back into a bun,
over one of Mom’s secretary blouses, for a detective
with a security business. I was a real model,
and too embarrassed to tell anyone. Dad watched
me put on black eyeliner and said, Not enough. He
told me to look afraid. I forget who held the gun
on me. It could have been anyone. Dad got paid.