Mary Warner

Last time we were home, of course,
there was no time
for this. So we’ve gathered
here again, and piled the old round table high
with things we most prize,
so to choose one by one –
we who learned, little
girls in this house, to take turns:
the quilts, the china,
jewelry – two blue bangles streaked
with silver, a cameo. It came from Italy,
she’d say.
And pictures packed in wilted
cardboard boxes. Here we are on birthdays
after birthdays.

We grow silent,
distracted from this dispensation,
in our minds the kitchen redolent and cluttered,
her languid voice
like caramel,
the bangles’ chiming as she’d lift a plate.

Mary Warner

And these will suffice. Larch so lacy and golden
against a sky so high, so blue, so fresh, 
you can believe you’re flying.
That last stretch of road, sweet descending curve
that bears you home. Murmur of drowsy hens
at dusk or water filling a tub. Revelation, 
finally, of the peony bud. Milky smell
of a baby’s head. Warm bread. You remember
your mother at the oven handing you a slice
like a benediction. This earth is unmoved
by your sufferings but it holds you fast
and amid the evening drudgery in your kitchen
you may glance into that black yew that presses
on your window where a cardinal, resplendent
in his refuge there, grants a blessing in his sleep.

Author's Note: I wanted to capture the kind of small sensual joys that redeem this world every day, and the cardinal that slept outside our kitchen window night after night last winter became an inspiration. (The “sweet descending curve” is in Tazewell County, on Business 460 between Claypool Hill and Cedar Bluff.)

Mary Warner Pic.jpeg

Mary Warner spent her career in journalism and returns to poetry in her retirement. Her poems appear in recent or upcoming editions of Mud Season Review and Green Hills Literary Lantern. She lives in Harrisburg, PA.