365 Degrees

Tom Johnson
Poetry Editor


Sweeping the Porch, How She Holds Her Broom Like an Old Lover

You have stayed with me
years past your leaving,
quiet as the furry flight of bats.
you shadow sunrise and dusk,
dip through the soft evening air
from pillar to rail,
naked to the possibility

that I no longer care,
that love cannot soar
in diagonals
but can fall
to the grainy earth
quicker than spit.

I stand here counting the ways
you descend from dark corners,
nourished by nothing more
than a voice caught on the wing.
I think of you, and old words
broom up like dust in my face.

You dive into webbed days,
suck moonlight from night.
In the metal box by the door

junk mail comes to me
the same willful way:
crowded, doubled over,
upside down and blind.

Selling My Mother's House

This is my last night.
To lie here on a mattress on the floor
is to rock to sleep a childhood
that begs for one more hour.
Every door is a lesson in leaving.

The house is a story
told in three days
of measuring worth: keep
her silver, the whatnot,
cedar chest, homemade cradle.
Throw out old Christmas cards.
Free the den doorknob
of all those rubber bands.
Give away the sheets, blender,
and green plaid sofa.
Need has nothing to do with it.

The house is an argument
of echoes and silence.
A missing mantel clock
articulates the years.
I brush my teeth to the sound
of a waterfall,
wipe my mouth on an old washcloth,
what's left of her linens.

I know why children put off sleep,
ask for juice before bed.

On their bedroom wall just above
where the nightstand used to be,
a dark spot framed in faith.
How she got up one August night
and sprayed a larger and larger
circle to save him from a mosquito
droning its song between them
and the peace of sleep.
How he ducked under cover.
How this accidental art,
what was once mist,
barely there, and far from beauty,
is the only sign left.

Like the Back of My Hand

Ditches and wells,
stubbles of pale wheat,
rivers veining the land:

my hand in sunlight.

In the same light
birds flock south, veer
back in one synchronized turn.

Who's to say which way
feels most like home?

They spread and shoulder
quick decisions,
a tally of small turns

leading them, year after year,
in the same direction,
leaving me, on this day,

still staring
at my hand, once young,

now mostly marbled skin,
too abundant, lined
from pore to pore, trusting
that the bones know where to go.

These three poems by Susan Meyers have been selected from those for which she has just won first place in the poetry category of the annual literary fellowships sponsored by the South Carolina Academy of Authors. A resident of Georgetown, she teaches at Coastal Carolina University, where she directs the writing center on campus. She has been writing poetry since 1988, when she and her husband moved back to South Carolina after living in Minnesota for nine years. Her poems have appeared in such literary magazines as The Greensboro Review, Mount Olive Review and Crucible, which in 1995 awarded her the Sam Ragan Prize.

© Copyright by POINT, 1996
Last modified 3/11/95