Catherine McGuire – Three Poems

Cathy1KloCatherine McGuire is a writer/artist with a deep interest in Nature, both human and otherwise. She’s had poems published for 3 decades, in publications such as New Verse News, FutureCycle,Portland Lights, Fireweed, and on a bus for Poetry In Motion. She has taught workshops around Oregon. Her chapbook, Palimpsests, was published by Uttered Chaos in 2011 and her first full-length book of poetry, Elegy for the 21st Century, will be published by FutureCycle Press in 2016. She has three self-published chapbooks.


In faded pinstripe overalls, dusty with the limestone,
sand and pebble mixture that filled their days,
they patiently set up wood frames, hollow
boxes to shape and set paths. Not rushing,
they stooped, checked levels on forms,
brushed hardpacked soil smooth.
Judging Jersey weather for the perfect morning,
pouring sidewalks along our new front yard.
It’s what they knew: grandfathers, uncles –
master builders, knowing how to turn slurry to stone.

As the gray slush oozed down the shoot,
they watched; checked the proportion
of water to powder; probed with gray fingers
and trowels for hidden patches of dry.
Stirring like their kitchened wives,
but knowing if they mixed well, this would last
beyond themselves, their grandchildren, past
when forms and lives had rotted to dust.
Gently tapping the slush to set and strengthen,
brushing the top with smooth, deft strokes,
looking for bubbles or breaks, they watched
for signs the thing was complete, was ready
to cure into stone.

Maybe that’s why they became so confused
when decisions unmade themselves,
when nightly arguments replayed long after
a thing was settled.  My grandfathers, uncles;
men who spoke little
who trusted concrete.

Estate Sale

Midway down a cul-de-sac
one house thrown open, contents spilled
onto tables in the drive, garage, front yard.
A woman has passed; relatives or pros
present her goods to strangers.
I move among the books, lotions, pottery –
orange stickies price it all, to the last bar of soap.

A delicate dissection – one life separated
onto card tables: the Agatha Christie’s, Bibles, the craft books.
You can read her mind in the titles: Overcome Childhood Trauma,
Anxiety Disorders, Christian Women In History, Green Maturity,
Gifts Of Grace. I might have liked this woman.

Acrylic paints and brushes in cardboard
above a stack of paints. Behind some seascapes,
a portrait: in carmels, rusts and beige, a woman stares,
blue-eyed, white-haired, at me. Here I am.Was.

In the bedroom, everything once closeted, shut in:
nighties, bras, socks – the BP cuff, insulin prick,
the braces and pads that eased the downslope.
But also lace, and quilting; red brocade from China,
a paper fan. Many angels – porcelain, wicker,
plaster, tin. A multitude that must have scattered
through the house to be greeted every day.
Now huddled, priced, on a dresser top.
Accumulation’ s release – and so we end.

I bring my purchases home, tuck them in proper places,
see all this – the dishes, yarn, the poetry –
on future card tables, as strangers browse.

Second Grade

October rains brought worms to the roads
like some vast asphalt pilgrimage.
And a scene of carnage: thin tubes
squeezed of their guts like toothpaste.

It was expected that you’d ewwww and go around.
It was expected the boys would pick one up
and fling it at you, laughing, enjoying
any efforts to duck.

So when I picked one up, threw it at Tommy,
there was silence – boys and girls shocked.
I reached for another. EWWW, the girls chorused.
I did it anyway. Tommy flinched.
Robert backed up.

So this was power.
Not such a big deal. I dropped the worm,
lost interest.

They didn’t throw at me anymore.

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