JENNE MICALE

★ ★ ★ ★

POETRY

Image by Jill Dimond

Mezuzah

You count your days by houses and place
stories a mezuzah nailed to the frame
no words stay in my mouth, no place holds me
but now and here in a room full of ghosts —

As a child I loved the graveyard, the peace
of permanence, marble against fever
cool as the moon. I wasn’t committed
to that muddy business we call living

the mess and dreck of it, though I loved birds,
and through the mockingbird I learned to live
the mess of mulberries smeared on a mouth
the eyes of a dog pulling with yearning

a confusion of ferret and blue jay.
The maples taught me of roots and place, sky
of a peace that drew me out of myself
and even in the graveyard gave me life —

Pilgrimage

The white flash of a junco’s ass through
the stripped sumac. I heard a bird cry
through the reeds. I couldn’t identify
the song for the strangeness of the tone
but the reeds whisper: You are not alone.

We window ourselves open to sky
to let the love in. This knowledge I have
stumbled upon, a miracle under
a palm giving purchase on the slope
all that we don’t buy but only give.

That strange bird choruses: live, live! Joining
the junco, the sumac, the winter swamp
of my renewed pilgrimage. Every
walker a saint with the path underfoot
that bold path, yes, that’s the very one —

The gardener’s war

They say
better a warrior in a garden
than a gardener in a war

two hands grip the tsuka
and two cradle the rifle
what gentle hand, then, tends the peony?
What weary arm can hold the spade?

The stones of the boundary wall scatter
with no young backs to put them straight.
The young, red poppies poured over the grass
a nosegay, ring of roses, pocket full
of posies

And when the battles have subsided
and you return through that neglected gate
your eye catching on the peony run wild
can you see, then, its infinite delight
perpetually unfolding

do you see the peony, hear the nameless birds
hidden on those branches that flower so whitely
each spring? Do you see the artful placement
of rock and stream?

or do you see instead entrails spilling
out, slick and red, hear a voice in that spring wind
that you will never hear again
a scream with so many notes in it
braided like a rope

and do you see the diligent young man
turning the soil? Or only his skin – brown
as the dirt – the stick in his hand that may
be a weapon as you level your gun?

The ghosts huddle close and you walk out.
Why plant the orchard whose fruit
you will never taste?
What space do we leave for beauty alone?

What plowshares have ever been forged from swords,
what guns remade into spades?
What spoils melted into golden rings
for the lovers whose lives have been saved?

A world prepared for war is one without gardens.

Let us walk into the dawn weaponless,
kneel as we lower the fragile green
into the waiting hole.
We cannot know what shears will pluck us, and when,
but we can choose to lean toward the light

and if the silver comes screaming down
let me feel good soil beneath my calloused hands
let me look out and see the stone, the stream,
and the sunset flash of the peony
a triumph of beauty even in this

Jenne Micale lives in the woods in Upstate New York with her husband and cat. When she’s not scribbling, she is making music as the ethereal/wyrd folk project Kwannon, learning Gaeilge and practicing aikido badly. Her work has appeared in Mandragora, Enheduenna, Oprelle, Last Leaves, The BeZine and Sandpiper, among other places.

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