What to Ask of the Woods
And in that sledding hour, after five
when the hill was blue,
we went trudging up, the kids and I,
just to go down;
orange Popsicle plastics in tow,
we ascended in soft scrape, quietly happy,
other sledders long gone, we taking
the gift of their tracks, nearly missing the lone tree,
remnants of earlier accidents
that splintered the drifts, broke the hill’s glossed ease.
In the dimming, we were dimmest,
enticed into the icier hour
for more breakneck speed, more careen,
until the first star or moon, as may be, approved the shadows
of our lonely dark lark.
Little snow gusts ghosted the hill.
From the brown abounds of the woods,
the wilderness came closer, stiller
and I had to stop on the hill’s pure breast
to look, to listen
for you, first son, to come stumbling out,
root-tripping, gnarl-groping again, lost
with each twig snap, briar snag,
thorn toward your forlorn face,
Christ, did nothing catch you,
break your fall?
My poor bleary fool, drunk
on what you dreamed was easeful death
as you wandered to the water,
that coolly waited and wet
with innocent appetite.
And then only the other two were left
finished at the foot of the hill,
weary of waiting, of always asking,
Why did you pass us?
How could we have missed you?
When My Brain Surgery Was One Week Pending
Nothing comes to mind
as I drive down the bypass
the Old Route 17—Roscoe to the Manor and back—
again in darkness
from seeing your grandmother
demented, declined, invalid.
Yet still I strain
to see them,
the bowed, skinny herd,
where on the way home from day care,
you’d always find them, pointing
“There they are, there, Mom! Grandma!”
happy that they kept surviving
on the hillside of a trailer park.
Damn dented plastic deer,
twenty years gone.
So real to you we were sure
they could outlast everything.
We passed them again
that time the car broke down
and we had to walk for miles,
side by side smudges on the road’s snowed edge,
dissolved into December dark.
Tired, you held on tight,
too cold to look for constellations,
I distracting you best I could
with songs and silly riddles,
clutched your gloveless hand tighter
until we made the town’s first lights.
Soon the turn home,
but before that, St. Aloysius’ cemetery,
the hand-painted sign
nailed diagonally to a blasted tree,
forgotten old groves guarding in a ring
the bent granite beginnings,
never guessing you would stop
A graduate of Vassar College, Sharon Kennedy-Nolle holds an MFA and doctoral degree from the University of Iowa. Her poetry has appeared or is upcoming in Chicago Quarterly Review, The Dickinson Review, Juked, Lindenwood Review, Menacing Hedge, OxMag, The Round, Storyscape, Streetlight Magazine, Talking River, Zoned, and Westchester Review, among others, while her dissertation was published as Writing Reconstruction: Race, Gender, and Citizenship in the Postwar South (University of North Carolina Press, 2015).