March 25, 2020

FOUR POEMS FOR FOUR CHILDREN, PLUS ONE: EMILY GROSHOLZ

Fragment of a Susie Osler ceramic plate
Snowdrop

Snow fell so early this year, just after Allhallows,
We never finished the ritual of raking clean
Livid grass and cushions of stricken moss.
The yard's still matted with leaves, oak, maple, walnut,
Visible once again as the snow recedes,
Tatted lace unravelling, going wherever the snows
Of yesteryear retire to, heaven or hellward.
Under the mat of crisscrossed mahogany
And black gold crusted with ice, one snowdrop rises.

She stands already in the outmost bed, bordering
Woods, though it is only February, turned,
Dear Mary-Frances, less than a week ago. I laid
The coverlet of leaves aside and there she was,
Furled on herself and bowed, but blooming hard,
Sober, exquisite child of an uncertain season.



Finitude

Awake before dawn, William and I sit drowsing,
lapsed from a dream, louring toward consciousness,
nursing a little, musing, counting our toes.
There are always ten, no matter where we begin.
Oh, look. He suddenly points at the closed door-windows
that cast over snow, past spindly lank silhouettes
of maple, oak, black walnut, into the dawn.

On tiptoe, weaving, he runs up close to the windows
charmed by the panels of gold set high among mullions
of boles, the roses fastened in tracery-branches.
Yet how the fastening ravels: our matins are sung,
the windows beyond the windows wither away,
and then he returns to my arms asking his questions
in an ancient, unknown tongue. And all of my answers,
equally enigmatic, are kisses in shadow.


Adopting Robbie

Snow stormed on your birthday,
Stormed on the day we drove
Down from the snowy mountains
To bring you home.

Night after night you wakened
At midnight, three, and seven,
Not fussing, but still hungry
For milk and me.

I fed you, and then rocked you
Beside the glinting mirror,
Running water in the bathroom
To make you sleep.

Outside the snow kept falling,
And silvered in the mirror;
I rocked you back and forth
And standing, slept.

Between our sleep and waking,
To the sound of water running,
Those nights we both endured
A second labor.

Out of the separate strangeness
We drifted slowly together,
Aching down and inward
To make one rhythm.

One smell, one long caress.
A womb of whirling snow,
And you and I together,
Safely delivered.


Sabrina Fair

Out in the sun with Benjamin,
Snow sparkled on his mittens, snowsuit, boots:
His eyes dance and he knows it.
We cover the day lily bed
With leaves to keep them warm.

Months and months ago
When we set out those sleepy bulbs,
He patted earth around them
And said, good night, sweet dreams,
See you next spring!

We rattle our branch-sabres,
Through snowballs, pitch into drifts
And leave our swirls on the ground.
My stick no longer a sword,
I write his name out: Ben.

And then I write a line
From Milton, that disappears
Into the woodpile, where an animal
Calligraphy trots up and vanishes
As well: our wilder neighbors.

Wood smoke is bad for asthma.
The wood we’ll never burn
We leave stacked up as shelter,
Tenements where chipmunk, mouse,
And squirrel can nest their young.


The Great Blizzard
For Elhanan Yakira,  January 1992

Snow on the Mount of Olives
Where stranded camels, brought in from the desert
Near Jordan to sit down beside the tourists,
Shudder and breathe a cloud;
Where tourists strain to see Jerusalem
Behind the snow: ramparts of the Old City,
Gold Dome of the Rock, vivid and faded.
Snow on the Garden of Gethsemane,
On massive, fragile olive trees
That heard perhaps a god plunged in a body
Asking the enigmatic cloud
For guidance, and its answer.

Snow on the gilt, ramshackle
Church of the Holy Sepulcher, disputed
Patchwork of black-robed, small sectarians
Staking chapels out with prayers and incense:
Clouds in the cupola, clouds in the gilded caves,
Holy confusion filling Golgotha
Where the dying god still weeps, petitioning
A silent patriarch, still bleeds and breathes.
Snow on the young Israeli soldiers
Shouldering loaded Uzis. Snow
On the Palestinian boys igniting threads
Of gunpowder on the sidewalk.

Snow on the tourists, scared, cold, and confused
In the labyrinth of streets.
Snow on the delicate acacias, on the palms,
Stripping branches in the well-built gardens
Around the pale gold, cubic limestone buildings
That climb the steep hills of Jerusalem.
Snow on the valley of Hell.
Snow on the Holy Mount where Abraham
Raised his knife against Isaac, under the sign
Of the patriarch, and where Mohammed,
Dressed for holy war with sword and steed,
Escaped to heaven.

Snow on the Arab coffee shops Israelis
No longer patronize, on modish plazas
Where rich and poor are not Palestinian.
Snow on half-deserted neighborhoods
Where boarded storefront, disembodied window
Spell out divided zones.
Snow on Fatima, snow on Ruth and Naomi,
Snow on the Virgin Mary,
Snow on the pregnant peasant girl
Still looking for her husband everywhere
Hopelessly in earth and heaven, who sighs
And weeps and walks back into the house of snow.


All poems except "The Great Blizzard" are from Childhood (Accents Publishing, 2014). "The Great Blizzard" is from The Stars of Earth: New and Selected Poems (Word Galaxy Press, 2017). By permission.

For more poetry by Emily Grosholz, see The Hudson Review, 2019 
Emily Grosholz's office door

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