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Image by Sampreety Ali

Early Winter

Wind bares
the ribs of the river
stretchmarks tattersall
today’s black water
city on its banks bricked
and glassy  unmoved
only its flags  like me
blown on the bridge
my scarlet wool coat
flailing  unmuscled
tell a season of change


You can’t go home again
is the last line I read
from my novel before

I tuck it in my pack
and leave the train
Last night I dreamt

a foreign place  I
struggled against a crowd
trying to make my way

to the market plaza
but was too late
I felt despair  then

someone recognized me
Linguistics! he shouted
He was my student and

fell in love with my kin
the two of them  so happy
in sudden  certain love

Surely  we were in the right
place after all!   What is home
for a tree  I wonder as I walk

to work  A tree begins
in one place and extends out
it moves through the original

place as it opens into new
I pause in the rain to cough
and snap a small wick of fire

from the willow  Its greeny
flowering leaves twirl as if
escaping a too-small home

they spring from a center and
alternate along the stem  lanceolate
they soft-stab the dampened air

I carry it to my office
to place in dusty water
in the broken oil lamp

a student long ago brought
me whole from his home
in Mongolia    it was a gift

from his father who told him
Teachers are lamps who
light your way   Do willows

flame in spring in the high
steppe?  I want to know
Did you find your way?

Mary Buchinger is the author of five poetry collections, including Virology (2022), /klaʊdz/ (2021), and e i n f ü h l u n g/in feeling (2018). She serves on the New England Poetry Club board and teaches at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in Boston. Website:


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