Turning Point




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Sample Poems by Grace Mattern


Now the song varies, mocking chains of notes,
the catbird flying from maple branch to fence post.
All spring I noticed the rise in birdsong
as we went out each morning, stronger chatter,
the brakes off, cells dividing and dooming themselves.
I sit in your chair, I wear your clothes, your ring.
I talk to your photographs. I watch the sky,
watch birds in the yard and realize how many flocks
I'd missed. For weeks I washed you, watched you,
lay next to you, all we could do was touch hands,
all you could do was whisper, your eyes black
morphine disks. Yet you turned back for me.

Last Cigarette

The loon was calling overhead,
the neighbors ran by and I hid my smoke,
a hummingbird came to the cone flowers.
The rain stopped and started again
and I walked in squally sheets on the road
we walked together so often,
lined with flowering jewel weed
beneath the grand old maples, failing now,
past hay bales getting soaked in the field.
I threw a half pack into the brook
where it flows under the road,
watched it float away from the spot
our daughter named Serenity.


I am still shocked into rote repetitions of life.
I am concentrating on the tricks. The last night
I imagined we were floating, body next to body,
I was soaking up all the body I could, all the disease
would allow. You'd moved diagonal across the bed
and I had to sleep wracked around a corner of the mattress
in the high room with windows opening to field
and farm and tree covered hills, a ledge
we often hiked to for a distant view of our house.


You are everywhere and nowhere,
all spirit, all bone by now, all bird,
all current of air against our bedroom windows.
The sparrows' chirp is harsher than I remember,
the late summer trill of cicadas an unnerving
background to the unimaginable life
I am left to live. Finally, I have been stopped.
I stood at the door and watched you walk through,
the breath that was you gone.

Sense Data

Trees backlit by morning sun
rising beyond the brook,
the reds and yellows of leaves
patterned with their own shadows.
Last night the house was noisy
with pops and cracks as if
the wood floors were adjusting
to your lost weight.
For two days your odor
was the stink of disease.
Now your car smells like smoke,
our son and his grief.
Your skin was sweetest
and stayed sweet at the curve
of bicep to shoulder, my hand
under the sleeve of your shirt.
Fear tastes like metal, tears of salt,
grief sour on my tongue.
Death is green bile bubbling
over your final smile.