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Four children, two cars, and a forest of walnut trees

Three poems by Emily Grosholz

Emily Grosholz
Emily Grosholz

A Summer Place

  • The chestnut tree is sick, its bark scaled
  • By yellow lichen, its leaves curled and brown,
  • Falling already in August when the wind rises
  • Across the patio our rented farmhouse opens
  • Against the road. Yet still it casts a shade.
  • I sweep the boat-shaped leaves outside the gate,
  • Trying absurdly to clear the courtyard tiles, but
  • The road is haunted by djinn, wind-spirals
  • That round the house-edges, bedevil the leaves
  • Back into my face, past the gate, across the blue tiles.
  • All afternoon I’ve awaited my eldest son,
  • My wanderer, chasing his long shadow across
  • The crest of another hill, down the lead-silver river
  • Of country road. Will the djinn blow him back again
  • Round the gate, to the little harbor afloat with leaves?

Marriage

I.

  • Now when I watch the flicker
  • Of leaf-fall in September,
  • My house set among bright
  • Metamorphic oak, black walnut,
  • Maple, seems on fire.
  • Now when I meet my lover,
  • My husband, on the sheer
  • Distracted weekend, what I feel
  • Is not nostalgia, pale
  • As a remembered fever, rather
  • Something like an airplane’s tremor
  • Over the sea at Finisterre,
  • When sand dune, breaker, wake
  • Tracing the sailboat’s windward beat,
  • Change as they disappear.

II.

  • After another fugitive but highly scheduled mid-morning rendez-vous,
  • Children at school, laundry folded, professorial tasks suspended in air,
  • I brush my teeth and hair, admiring the pretty girl framed by the mirror,
  • Hardly a day over sixty, roses in her cheeks and sparks in her wide green eyes.
  • If I’d had a date like that when I was twenty, I undoubtedly would have given
  • Notice to all my other hapless boyfriends, and thrown over my formal studies
  • And even my citizenship, hightailing it south-south-west to another clime or season,
  • And even God, abjuring the hope of heaven for the purgatorial hill of earthly delights.
  • Yet here I am, at home, my studies completed, those unscrolled, gold-stamped higher
  • Degrees conferred, a fixed university post with endless disputes and a library-office,
  • Four children, two cars, and a forest of walnut trees in flux behind the back garden,
  • And sunlight streaming uncontainably across our unmade bed like divine laughter.

Counterpane

for Maxine and Victor Kumin, in memoriam

  • Boomer, daughter of Taboo,
  • Dam of Hallelujah, and
  • Earlier of Praise Be,
  • Today lies under snow,
  • Her coverlet precisely
  • Quilted by the hand
  • Of February and her kind
  • Owners, over many years,
  • In rail fence pattern,
  • Except for one edge where
  • A bright celestial neighbor
  • Adds a square: north star.

Emily Grosholz has taught philosophy at Penn State and also served as an advisory editor and contributor to The Hudson Review for over 30 years. Her seventh book of poetry, Childhood (with drawings by Lucy Vines), was published in 2014 by Accents Publishing and has raised over $2000 in sales for UNICEF.

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Emily Grosholz
Emily Grosholz

A Summer Place

  • The chestnut tree is sick, its bark scaled
  • By yellow lichen, its leaves curled and brown,
  • Falling already in August when the wind rises
  • Across the patio our rented farmhouse opens
  • Against the road. Yet still it casts a shade.
  • I sweep the boat-shaped leaves outside the gate,
  • Trying absurdly to clear the courtyard tiles, but
  • The road is haunted by djinn, wind-spirals
  • That round the house-edges, bedevil the leaves
  • Back into my face, past the gate, across the blue tiles.
  • All afternoon I’ve awaited my eldest son,
  • My wanderer, chasing his long shadow across
  • The crest of another hill, down the lead-silver river
  • Of country road. Will the djinn blow him back again
  • Round the gate, to the little harbor afloat with leaves?

Marriage

I.

  • Now when I watch the flicker
  • Of leaf-fall in September,
  • My house set among bright
  • Metamorphic oak, black walnut,
  • Maple, seems on fire.
  • Now when I meet my lover,
  • My husband, on the sheer
  • Distracted weekend, what I feel
  • Is not nostalgia, pale
  • As a remembered fever, rather
  • Something like an airplane’s tremor
  • Over the sea at Finisterre,
  • When sand dune, breaker, wake
  • Tracing the sailboat’s windward beat,
  • Change as they disappear.

II.

  • After another fugitive but highly scheduled mid-morning rendez-vous,
  • Children at school, laundry folded, professorial tasks suspended in air,
  • I brush my teeth and hair, admiring the pretty girl framed by the mirror,
  • Hardly a day over sixty, roses in her cheeks and sparks in her wide green eyes.
  • If I’d had a date like that when I was twenty, I undoubtedly would have given
  • Notice to all my other hapless boyfriends, and thrown over my formal studies
  • And even my citizenship, hightailing it south-south-west to another clime or season,
  • And even God, abjuring the hope of heaven for the purgatorial hill of earthly delights.
  • Yet here I am, at home, my studies completed, those unscrolled, gold-stamped higher
  • Degrees conferred, a fixed university post with endless disputes and a library-office,
  • Four children, two cars, and a forest of walnut trees in flux behind the back garden,
  • And sunlight streaming uncontainably across our unmade bed like divine laughter.

Counterpane

for Maxine and Victor Kumin, in memoriam

  • Boomer, daughter of Taboo,
  • Dam of Hallelujah, and
  • Earlier of Praise Be,
  • Today lies under snow,
  • Her coverlet precisely
  • Quilted by the hand
  • Of February and her kind
  • Owners, over many years,
  • In rail fence pattern,
  • Except for one edge where
  • A bright celestial neighbor
  • Adds a square: north star.

Emily Grosholz has taught philosophy at Penn State and also served as an advisory editor and contributor to The Hudson Review for over 30 years. Her seventh book of poetry, Childhood (with drawings by Lucy Vines), was published in 2014 by Accents Publishing and has raised over $2000 in sales for UNICEF.

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