Laura Rodley‘s most recent books are Turn Left at Normal by Big Table Press, Counter Point by Prolific Press, and As You Write It, Lucky 7, printed by Leveler’s Press.
Waiting outside the village grocery store
until it was emptier, holding only the required amount of people,
my attendant waiting was supervised by a woman sweeping
the fallen orange trumpets from the trumpet vine, dozens of them.
She looked up when I said, “Look, there’s a butterfly,”
hanging out on the door screen, a brown spotted orange sulphur.
“Maybe it’s a sign,” I said. “Yes, it’s a sign, maybe from my brother,”
she surmised. “I’ve been missing him so much,” her pale blue eyes
above her midnight blue mask watering.
“I dreamed last night that I smelled my brother,
and he was big and strong,” holding her hands out to twice
her size, broom handle still in hand. “He died of kidney
disease: he had a kidney transplant, and he never
should have had it. It killed him.”
“What did he smell like, in your dream, sandlewood,
aftershave?” I asked. “No, just clean, pure, like
an angel. He was big, and white, glowing. Then he was skinny
and shriveled like when he died. My mother, my father,
my brother, all gone.” “I know,” I said, “I’ve lost my
parents too, and others. All the people who passed are closer now,
checking in on us, asking what the hell is going on.”
Every Single Step
Where the muscle attaches to the bone
of your left foreleg as though
you are a moor pony harnessed in your traces
to walk the rail lines down the mine
in the darkness, wet air clapping
on the mine shaft, as inside a well
with water not fit to drink;
it doesn’t matter if your mane covers
your eyes, you can’t see in this
darkness but you know the way,
the forelock protects your eyes,
large, and dark, and trusting,
from dust, and from the sudden
blindness when you finally emerge
above ground, unable to see anything
but smell the fresh grass crumpled
in the mud, the familiar tobacco
that the miners chew to offset the taste of coal,
you need no driver to direct you,
you know the way out, and the way back in.
The fullness of the coal cart emptying,
its emptiness your nudge to go back in,
unrelenting, until your final draw
and hay is lay down for you
just inside your stable door.
Don’t Know Why
Training as an EMT, I studied how to look for and keep
a severed finger, put it on ice in a Dixie cup to be reattached,
hold a femoral artery at the thigh, tie the tourniquet
above the bleed. I was ready for my clinical
at Boston City Hospital, ready, and wide awake,
but during my two mandatory shifts to become
certified, no one came in injured from an ambulance,
I saw no blunt force trauma.
Classmates saw car crash victims,
severed arms, collapsed lungs, stabbings,
blood streaming before the fear of AIDS.
In 10th grade, I was spared dissecting of frogs
just after removing one from the jar of formaldehyde
due to having pneumonia, and spared SATS
because we moved to another country.
I never knew why I was spared, but wonder now
if it was training to be ready for the long reaching
arm of Covid, to have less burnt-out, more
reservoirs, to offer my friend after she evacuated
from Chico solace, to see the ash that still hangs
in the air, feel the smoke that lingers on her skin,
take it in, breathe for her over the telephone lines.