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Winter Driving

Four white-tailed deer bolt
As the low flame of sunset ignites the orchard.

Directly, we fall silent, lacking conjunctions,
broken hearted. Hooves and a dusting of snow,

muffled pounding. It always comes back to that
black hole at the center—neither matter nor half-moon—

flames of ice pierced by headlights.
Without fear of gravity

momentum will get you over the next rise
or into the soft, dark shoulder.

Even small failures are unforgiven.
The one thing you may never do is stop.

Deer leap in four directions over drifts
that go black outside the range of our beams.

Broken hearted or not, a doe stands in the pelting storm
just taking it.

– Laura Smyth is a writer and book designer, which is how she manages to have the best of both worlds in publishing. She holds an MFA from Columbia University and is a partner in two small publishing companies, Thimbleberry Press and Mudminnow Press. She lives with her family in a small, refurbished miner’s house on the rustic Keweenaw Peninsula of Upper Michigan.

Listen to the Poem

Not Talking

I am sick with talking
in the parking lot, the class room,
the grocery aisle where apples

and oranges look like stained glass.
I am sick with talking at the bakery
and the bank, the drive through

where a woman with glittered nails
thinks I want to talk about my
self, herself, our personal weather.

I want words that stall to keel
and vaporize. I want a noun exact
as a swung axe tracing the eye’s

plumb line from north to south. I want
a verb precise as the optic nerve,
gravity’s burn, a beak’s first tap.

I want every noun’s geometry
to flare into eternity; I want the vowels
in Silence to convene and testify.

– Laurie Lamon’s poems have appeared in The Atlantic, The New Republic, The New Criterion, Ploughshares, and others magazines, including Poetry Daily and Verse Daily. A Pushcart recipient, she also received a Witter Bynner award, selected by Donald Hall. Her poetry collections are The Fork Without Hunger and Without Wings (CavanKerry Press 2007, 2009).

Not An Elegy

The workshop focuses on elegy and so
we read a few – O’Hara, Roethke, Tate –
and she says maybe every poem is an elegy.
And the workshop is over so I
drive home and think about it.
And the day is over so I go to bed
and wake thinking about it again,
and I think about my poems, the ones
that celebrate life, and so I sit and write,
Can every poem be a kind of elegy?
And I notice the loops of the g and y
fall beneath the blue line on the page,
I watch my pen and see the ink dry
as it glides from one word to the next,
I see my hand’s shadow moving slowly.

I think about the poem I once wrote
that can’t possibly be an elegy, the one of you
in the infant tub set into the kitchen sink,
your pearl-sized toes and tootsie-roll arms
quivering as the water sloshed over you,
the o of your mouth glistening and dark
with the words you would begin to say,
the plastic tub the color of new daffodils,
and I remember you like a hairless puppy
in my arms, remember the exact pitch
of your whimper, the infant tub dented
with use by older cousins and sold
by summer’s end in a yard sale.

We’ve lived in three houses since I stood
at that kitchen sink to bathe you,
and sometimes still in my dreams you
are small and wandering and lost and you
cannot hear me calling you. In dreams
we are both small, always, in my poem
like a photograph you are still small, you
have stayed small, I feel the mere weight
of you in my arms as I lift you from the water
to drape you in a towel, I see the water
pool down into the drain and I think about how
tiny pieces of your newborn body will disappear
into the pipes below and be dispersed
among the rocks and soil and sand and clay.

– Kate Hutchinson’s experiences as a high school teacher, a single mother of an adult son with special needs, and a lover of the natural world, feed her poems and essays, which have appeared in over two dozen literary magazines and collections. Her first chapbook, The Gray Limbo of Perhaps, was recently published by Finishing Line Press (2012).