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Janice Gould Photo Credit by Jason Ordaz, School for Advanced Research, Santa Fe, New Mexico

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Contributor Notes




Janice Gould

Janice Gould




Our Mother’s Death

 

 

A long vigil in the dim room,

the blue curtains drawn at night.

All of us dozed on the hardwood floor

or leaned against a wall in numb wakefulness,

listening.

 

We knew death was prowling,

perhaps among the trees and downed limbs

behind our house.

 

It rapped at the windows, then

stood in the room attentively waiting.  Three days,

a little more.  Finally the moment came

 

to escort her—mid-afternoon, gray like any other

with its filter of fog blowing through the grass

on the hill.

 

Bereft, afraid, we held her upright

till her last breath spiked

and guttered out, like

a person drowning,

 

                    and it lifted her

away from the hot mass

of flesh and nerve that still was

our mother.  She was gone,

 

though some reluctance remained

in the cooling air. 

 

Eventually it turned, as we all might,

into something less than air,

more than light.

 

 

 

 

Dear Soul

 

 

I find a few words you scratched

on blue-lined paper, ink fading over time,

a photo of you as a child, frowning

as you hold a blanket to your naked breast. 

 

I remember everything you said—

not each word, but enough

to know your goodness, your resolve. 

 

Where have you gone, dear soul? 

Have you learned to value the luster of

your own bright heart?  Always I wonder

which star you have become.

 

Have you joined the flight of birds? 

Are you in sunlight shining through

the green of June?  Or are you in the wind,

a chime tolling its one true note?

 

 

 

 

Owl

 

 

I have decided to befriend the night

and the blank, cotton-mouthed sleeplessness

that claims my spirit.

 

I am anywhere the half-moon sails,

its ghost-light breaking through clouds

in the salty wind-swept sky.  Like owl,

 

I float over shadowed walls

and fences, the nocturnal alleys

of backyard blossoms—hollyhock,

 

blackberry, wild anise.  In the deep thicket

of pines that grows in the creek bed

behind the house, I perch,

 

or among blue leaves of the eucalyptus

that click in the breeze while its cool

oily fragrance lifts into the dark.

 

I try out my voice, send forth

its husky syllable into night-stained streets

and rain-washed boulevards in cities

 

where the poor sleep, bunched up

against the cold in doorways,

their breath of tar and acids.

 

Navigating black currents of air,

unseen, unremarked, I understand

the giddy pleasure of darkness,

 

the uncanny moment of calling

into the pitch of morning.  These wings

take me anywhere.  Over shuttered houses

 

I glide, my voice stuttering—

an energetic harpy, a rasping entity

of unappeasable appetite. 

 

 

 

 

Dawn

 

 

Before the earliest birds sweep through the yard,

light a candle.  Ask this day for refuge,

music and poems,

 

for sunlight warming the walls, 

for the animal self at peace.

 

Ask to know the path into vibrant stillness.

 

Give thanks for humble foods—

the leavened and unleavened breads.

 

Praise the sun edging the horizon,

the dove-colored sky, washed clean.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Publication Information

 

“Our Mother’s Death,” “Dear Soul,” “Owl,” and “Dawn” were all published in Janice’s fourth book of poetry, Doubters and Dreamers, University of Arizona, 2011.

 

“Owl” was also published in Pilgrimage Magazine, Vol. 35, Issue 3, 2011.