an on-line poetry magazine
for the 21st century

WINTER 2021-22

 

Cheryl A Rice

DEATH HAS A WAY

My morning commute takes me across

the Hudson, a bridge halfway between,

belting the river snugly but

not so snug as to cut off the flow.

Not so wide as at its mouth,

not so fine as the watery needle’s trickle

north, near perpetual clockwork winters.

Sometimes fog is so dense

I can’t see the eastern shore,

bridge bending out into an unknown end.

Sometimes all I can see is painted lines,

railing almost close enough to touch,

mist smearing windshield,

wipers powerless to clear my way.

II

Except for these extreme days

when weather bends time,

sun’s cheap face sheds little light

on my routine, my mind finds a

safe space to wander. My griefs

leak out into plain mornings.

My dead, who are always close by,

come back in incidents, recalled calamities,

small gesture in a diner, an embroidered

partridge, laughter in an office, all

lingering in gilded circles, tightening

around my throat as my drive continues.

III

They who were, who are not now,

have no real bearing on this day

beyond what I invite.

The Dead have a way of taking

bow after bow, their stage my divided memory,

their performance one I’ve seen many times.

I am not here to linger with them,

I tell myself finally.

I and the race need to go on.

The woods rise beside the road,

fog or no, sun or without.

If humans stopped when loved ones die,

rewrote our lives until all was equitably

resolved, sanitary, sane, then the whole lot of us

would be gone by now, fingers frozen with exhaustion.

We are here to witness only the crow

that darts before us at the traffic light,

watch leaves cross crimson to brown,

to snow-covered crumble.

We must cross without reluctance,

use pavement before us to proceed.

 

Cheryl A. Rice’s poems have appeared in Home Planet News, Rye Whiskey Review, Exit 13, and Misfit Magazine, among others. Recent books include Until the Words Came (Post Traumatic Press), coauthored with Guy Reed, and Love’s Compass (Kung Fu Treachery Press). Her monthly column, “The Flying Monkey,” appears at albanypoets.com, and her erratic blog is at: http://flyingmonkeyprods.blogspot.com/. Rice lives in New York’s Hudson Valley.