Sandra Kolankiewicz ~ Five Poems

Just Fine

At my annu­al physical,
when the nurse asks me the screen­ing ques­tions, I lie.
No, I am not afraid to go out.
No, I do not feel anxious.
No, I get the same plea­sure from everything
that has ever made me smile.
Because friends will live for­ev­er, I want to say,
as will my cat with­out a tail,
that favorite sweater that was my grandmother’s,
the glass panes in my win­dows so vin­tage and thick
they’re full of tiny bub­bles that we all some­how look past
when we want to see that hem­lock in the yard
across the way with the pre­cise land­scap­ing lighting
that nev­er goes out, even in the dark—
and while I am answer­ing and searching
the nurse’s eyes for some kind of mutuality,
some recog­ni­tion, I’m also wondering
why women smear cov­er­age on their faces
to hide the flaws I would not be able to see even with trifocals,
though the foun­da­tion line’s obvious,
where her chin meets her neck, and all
I can come up with for an answer is how
the dis­creet­ly-placed lights in the garden
across the way from mine are more consistent
than the sun or the moon combined,
which I obvi­ous­ly can­not say,
so even though I do not hear her last question,
I answer any­way: I’m just fine.


Insomnia and the Divided Self

I used to sleep,” she once said. “Now I only doze,
the hor­mones gone, replaced by flickering
glimpses of the past on the inside of my eyelids,
some in black and white, oth­ers in color.
I num­ber them for a future table of contents,
keep a men­tal list of the End Notes I need to write.”
Now we slip by each oth­er in the dark hallway
when I’m en route to the bath,
meet up again on the return,
but say lit­tle, estranged.
“Give me an image around which to center
my thoughts,” I whis­per as we brush past.
I’m think­ing of the tiny spikes on the skin of the cucumber
plucked from the vine this morning
or of my cat with its ques­tion mark tail,
how the burn­ing bush beside my dri­ve­way grew so large
the red branch­es scratched the paint from the house.
Later, when I press my hand to the window
to make the sliv­er of moon disappear,
the insu­la­tion in the wall is so thin
I hear her snor­ing on the oth­er side.


More on Lili

I’ve the right to make an ass of myself,
Lili laughs. She inter­rupts the speaker,
emits loud sobs dur­ing “Adagio
for Strings” when the last notes don’t go higher.
She claps with joy at anyone’s moment,
no mat­ter where she is, can’t stop eating
half a pie, takes three free sam­ples instead
of one, devours pis­ta­chios in reach.
Yes, wink or roll your eyes. To the passing
gawk­ers as she yanks weeds, she’s a painted
ply­wood behind, bent over in her bliss
because her appear­ance doesn’t matter.
Good or bad idea, she enthus­es, makes
full dis­clo­sure in spite of who’s present,
gets per­son­al about open secrets,
dreams all night long whether she sleeps or not.


Remains To Save Us

I have no words for the beau­ty nor the pain,
though I keep try­ing to cap­ture them,
how the blue dou­ble-winged dragon
flies swooped over the water,
the frogs in the marsh­es plentiful,
lying about on rocks in the sun
like the doz­ing bathers on the stoney beaches
of our brisk and inher­it­ed ocean.
Every day the sun lit up the sky,
and what­ev­er was in the air
wait­ed for it, cloud or gull,
moon not want­i­ng to leave,
hang­ing insis­tent and pale
above the trees on the horizon.
A plain went on forever,
until stop­ping short of a moun­tain range,
pur­ple the high­er we went, the peo­ple below
plant­i­ng hori­zons of food and flowers
in a lim­it­less num­ber of valleys,
and bring­ing water to irri­gate them, their once
abun­dant bee now just hang­ing on.
We have plen­ty of singing toads in the spring,
though all mis­take them for the rare peepers
that spread their joy in few­er numbers
but sing out all the same,
most of the marsh­es paved over,
their water fun­neled underground,
piped to some riv­er that will spill out
into a bar­ren bath­tub sea,
green algae encroach­ing on the rocky shores,
our sky grey­ish even when blue
for the wild­fires to the west,
the dis­placed moon now stuck
on a man-made ledge.
Whether we dri­ve or fly,
noth­ing goes on for­ev­er but hous­ing, strip malls,
asphalt, in a design we call ‘the pike,’
the lay­out the same what­ev­er town we visit,
at the entry point to everywhere,
the paths we choose paved with concrete
sap­ping what­ev­er divine energy
remains to save us.


Of Dew and Skin

She gets her hair done now,
her teeth whitened, because
of one sum­mer dawn of dew
and skin. The inno­cence of
youth per­sists in the bad
deci­sions she still makes,
such as sit­ting all day in a
chair, every eight weeks, with
pieces of tin foil wrapped up
in her hair to get the
high­lights she remembers
from the sum­mer she turned
six­teen, when a stom­ach was
nat­u­ral­ly flat, bod­ies paler at
Memorial Day than they were
by Labor Day. She wakes up
sweat­ing at the end of
August, win­dows open, a box
fan turn­ing, after a nightmare
that fall has become winter.


Sandra Kolankiewicz’s poems have been pub­lished at Southword, Bear Paw Journal, and the Peace Studies Journal.  Her chap­book Even the Cracks is avail­able from Finishing Line Press. The intro­duc­to­ry sto­ry in her col­lec­tion, Aftermath, appeared in Prole. Her poet­ry has appeared wide­ly, most recent­ly in Blue Mountain Review and SoFloPoJo.