Two Poems by Rachel Hadas



Leap Day


The mutt self-pity slavers at my ankles.

Flapping in time loose as an ancient bathrobe,

directionless, self-loathing: what to do

        with February's extra day

        which as I write

has given way to merciless March light?

The day was handed me, apparently,

to visit you in the "facility."

        I'd planned to, so I did.

        You weren't doing well.

        Nor was I in the pink.

The lifted burden floating near my head

leaves space for thoughts to flow to, so I think.

        Why look for symmetry?

        Why should I automatically

        Rise as you descend?

Thirty years together.  Thirty-two.

        And of these maybe ten

with the insidious illness in your brain.

The two of us are not a seesaw creaking

        amicably up and down.

I cannot say what we resemble now.

Not that we're strictly speaking still a "we,"

        nor are we not.

        This is what I see:

something that slows and starts again and slows

and sputters and eventually ends -

an end as gradual, as invisible

in its movement as whatever seed

started its long growth inside your skull.

"Every thing," Mary Shelley wrote,

        "must have a beginning...

and that beginning must be linked to something

        that went before."

These links evoke an endless length of chain

        choking your brain.

Each time I visit you, or every day

you're given, will be better than what follows,

        or so they say.

        This was our Leap Day.





After the End of Summer


Vegetables glowing in the garden,

walks in starlight or the smell of woodsmoke:

enough time evidently had to pass

before all these sank firmly into place.

Not that they had exactly

vanished or been forgotten,

but that they gained in clarity with distance,


so that the brown brook when I finally sat

and listened to it spoke a single word

over and over in its water voice,

a voice born out of silence

different from uneasy human silence,

that cloudy curtain filtering out sound,

or aching hollow longing to be filled.






2005-2009 Per Contra: The International Journal of the Arts, Literature and Ideas

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Rachel Hadas

Spring 2009 Poetry