- Category: Bill Holm Poetry Contest
Katharyn Howd Machan, Professor of Writing at Ithaca College, holds degrees from the College of Saint Rose, the University of Iowa, and Northwestern University. Her poems have appeared in numerous magazines; in anthologies and textbooks such as The Bedford Introduction to Literature, The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2013, Poetry: An Introduction, Early Ripening: American Women’s Poetry Now, Sound and Sense, Writing Poems, Literature: Reading and Writing the Human Experience; and in 32 collections, most recently Wild Grapes: Poems of Fox (Finishing Line Press, 2014), H (Gribble Press, 2014—national winner) and When She’s Asked to Think of Colors (Palettes & Quills Press, 2009—national winner). Former director of the national Feminist Women’s Writing Workshops, Inc., in 2012 she edited Adrienne Rich: A Tribute Anthology (Split Oak Press).
SNOW ON SNOW
Fox’s whiskers twitch.
Sky opens and sky opens again:
low and thick as though stars and moon
will never exist again.
Such a winter? Not even solstice
yet but white has claimed
the world Fox lives, a world
where November should not know
such weight again and again, again.
Beautiful high pine trees breathe.
So clean the black pond whispers.
Fox’s eyes begin to narrow,
hearing deep earth’s different cry,
inarticulate but yearning
desperate plea, a dark goodbye.
EVEN MURDERERS SAY GOOD MORNING
He grunted at me, maybe caught unaware,
maybe surprised that a tourist would nod
and speak in greeting as she walked
with a heavy bag on her arm.
Corner of Margaret Street and Southard,
Mangia Mangia starting the sauce
to simmer and sweeten all day.
Rain last night, the morning fresh
and loud with leaf blowers and trucks,
a new car smeared by parking tickets
being lifted and hauled away.
Not very far from the cemetery
and its stories of burglars and ghosts.
I come to Key West once a year
from a place where snow falls in March.
He almost smiled, half-looked in my eyes,
then closed his face as I passed.
Drunk, my father came to me,
his hands upon my breasts, my mouth
as my mother disappeared, her night
a story of what must be, sex
a decision of midnight power, his
longing of loins for loins: a daughter
best and easiest in the family
where a wife is worn to bone.
Let the lamp limp dimly low,
let the door creak loud: a man
will have what he’s moved to have,
no matter the face of frightened flesh,
no matter: she’s his, keel to water.
for Bill Roorbach
Snow again. Ice.
In my paisley patchwork quilt
as cold wind pushes at my house
I read about a man far north,
how he skies across a frozen pond
and finds a neighbor trapped by wheels
spinning downward, spinning hard
the crumbling weak sand of the bank
above dark water running deep.
Here in my small college town
we wander on The Commons, watch
single digits dance with time
in a column stiff as our
white breath, fingers’ harsh surprise.
January. Students back. The sky
a grid for nightmares. Who
remembers April’s reach of roots
that will dare to touch new air?
The man perspires, pushing hard,
his two dogs leaping, barking loud,
as with a rope he tries to save
the almost-stranger years beside
have failed to make a friend.
Shivering, I hunker down,
my cat a weight upon my shins,
winter all my dreams can know,
snow upon the window pane,
ice like hundred-year-old glass,
a silver surface by a mill
where wild, once lost, returns.
So many crows this cold full moon.
I rise from dreams of my dead mother
this Sunday with the sounds of blackness
come alive like a tame cat’s long fierce
pupil widening with hunger for wings.
No snow this dawn, unlike other dawns
of this January ringing wane and wax
with red a different shade each night
thick, thin, shallow, deep. The crows
have been troubled, lying low, afraid
of white weather new and fast with edges
sharpened by wind. Today, though, morning
full through our tree, they gather outside
our glass. I see her now, our dark-robed
neighbor, her heavy basket full of crusts
she’s broken with strong hands. Crows
fly and crows gather to where ice
shards glare and glitter. They glimpse the smile
she allows to show as her fingers fling
and beckon. Hard beaks open wide with greed
and shadows criss and cross through light
that seems to mock their last long cries
as, sighing, I rise from soft green patchwork
and tread pale stairs to my own kitchen’s stores.
The Crows of Turner Place
Blue is gone, gray is here,
and gold lies crumpled on the ground
mocking every summer dream
the year tries to remember.
Black wings spread and sharp beaks open
cawing cawing cawing joy
that every branch is theirs to fill
with raw hunger for the moon.
And there’s that simple couple filling
hanging feeders with good sweet seed—
wrens, finches, chickadees, jays
dart and light and peck and taste
until the kings and queens approach
with their loud call and their wide shadow
murdering the last dim light
and silencing all lesser beings
as cold comes to South Hill.