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.