poetry header

rarer, the cobalt blue


small enough to call them mermaid's tears

small enough to call them mermaid's tears

small enough to call them mermaid's tears

small enough to call them mermaid's tears

small enough to call them mermaid's tears

rarer, the cobalt blue

small enough to call them mermaid's tears

small enough to call them mermaid's tears




Christine Higgins


Beach Glass

Not mined gems
like rubies or diamonds
but gems nonetheless
made by what is left behind
as trash, rubbed by sand,
refined by waves and currents.

I've trained my eye
to find the emerald green
or amber brown of beer bottles.
Rarer, the cobalt blue
of Vaseline jars, or the milky
white of medicine bottles.
Relics, now that everything
is sold in plastic.

Older pieces, tossed
into slivers, icicles, smoothed shards--
aqua blue and olive green,
small enough to call them
mermaid's tears.
Treasured—those pieces
without shiny spots, well-frosted.

The best surprise—
a whole bottle neck
or only the curve of one,
harmless now that it's been
tumbled by the sea,
or the thick bases
bearing secret messages:
raised numbers, brand names:

A lovely meditation
as I walk the shoreline.
Then the joy to see them later
collected in a candy dish,
nested together.


Martha reads poetry

A Year of Mourning

A small miracle--
this morning, this visit.
I'm still in bed, in my pajamas,
but I can hear them talking downstairs.
I imagine they're sitting
at the dining room table:
my husband and a young woman
we met at the college library—
she's come to help him with a video project.
Ashley's almost the exact age
our daughter would be
had she survived her car accident.

Every now and then I hear them chuckle.
I can smell the coffee brewing.
I hear her get up to let our dog out—
she feels that much at home—
there's pattering of the dog's feet,
then the hinge squeak of the screen door.

Everything's normal for a few minutes.
Everything's as it should be.
From under the covers, I eavesdrop
on their conversation about a new camera.
I imagine a big bouquet of yellow roses on the table--
even though I know that's not so.


christine's family 


Lilacs surround the herb garden,
drape the white roof
of a red house, line the path
I walk every morning.

In the city, I bought lilacs,
lifted them dripping
from a yellow pail
outside the Korean grocery.

Here, they grow on multiple branches,
I watch them fade from dark
to colored buds with little crosses
that open into pale blue flowers.

The fiddlehead ferns sway.
I see how much more they have let
their heads uncurl in green.

Each frond dips like a dancer.
Everything changes as fast as it changes.

Today, rain has left droplets
on the baby pines, and drenched
the heads of the lilacs.

I think their loveliness is gone,
but then a sudden heat
carries their fragrance again.

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The Dogs of Plum Point

After a terrible heat yesterday
we wake early this morning
to discover a breeze.
We bring our cereal bowls outside
to eat at the picnic table
under the black walnut tree.
The dogs come with us.

Betsy comes from next door,
with her dog, Jesse, who is
blind and hard of hearing—
a little mop of dark grey curls
he follows the scent of our dogs,
our gentle pit bull Cooper,
our inherited sheep dog, Soda.

Betsy's friend, Rick, who lives
over in the Neeld Estate, comes up
from the beach with Isabel,
a bluetick hound with eyes
that seem too big for her head.
She looks up at me with a pitiful face.

Together the dogs fetch sticks,
chase rabbits in the tall grass,
drink from the same water bowl,
then fall asleep at our feet.
Except Jesse, who's too old for this romping.
He seeks out my air-conditioned porch.
He comes in with me to escape the heat,
curls up under the bench, keeps me
company while I write.

rarer, the cobalt blue

A Hard Rain
So hard, the water slides
down the window panes.
The wind, so persistent,
a whooshing sound—
not rising and falling
but thrumming from the constant
shake of the tree limbs.
The sky is pale, blanched white,
above a gun metal bay.
The white caps roll in,
the waves thrash the shore.

I like watching the elements
at work with such intensity—
akin to my own desires.
Still, I feel safe here in this little house,
protected from sorrow, comforted
by the idea of what endures.

I want to plumb the depths
of why I'm here, I want to say:
I promise to carry on.
I'm not afraid.

glass jars in sienna


Another Year Turning

Crackling cold night
when the white
disc of a moon
shines on the water
shines on the trees' branches
sheathed in ice.

I am a woman
in a sewing shop
searching for lace
to decorate the tree.
I find ornaments
of silvered glass,
boxes of real tinsel.
They are all mine already.
I am reminded of old friends,
getting older.

Another year turns.
Long white icicles
pierce the black night.

En Plein Air

Before dawn Monet would set out
for the Normandy fields to paint
his first canvas of haystacks.
A half hour later, he would begin
again. Over time he painted
haystacks and hay bales
at different times of day,
from different angles,
in different seasons.

His assistant delivered the canvases
by wheelbarrow, a dozen or so
at a time, and Monet would
advance one depending on the light.
In winter the stacks appear violet and blue.
In summer they're fiery red and orange.

I too am out in the air, my picnic bench
a short distance from the hay field,
the sky above it a roll of canvas
that keeps revolving in blue and white.
A tractor arrives to cut and rake
the dry grasses. It rolls the hay
into coils that stand sentinel,
until the children come
to climb them and jump
like superheroes from a great height.

I don't have to go anywhere.
My field transforms before me
with the seasons, the time of day,
children coming and going.

At night the moon hangs
ever present, a light bulb
over the water.

Mornings, I begin again.

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