Rosemary Winslow


Without visible wings
pearled the
hummingbird suspends
at flower’s nipple
and her heart beats mightily
as she draws the nectar up
the artery of her strange mouth

This is the way I watch her
every morning coming and going 
from five to eight
it must the same one
I’ve read they’re so pugnacious                 

Her mate flies in a wide arc
up to a twig in the pine
and waits for her
his head a miniature sun
on the branch’s horizon

still as night I sit near the laurel
along the porch I look and look
past the house wall past him
into the dark sensation of woods
I see nothing

more alive
than this
pure desire
for sweetness

electric humming
as they stand in air—
they want
is now

they are so filled
when he comes down to her
their green bodies
two shimmering leaves
soft fire
then flash
out in the blue
over the briars
all morning together

Their instincts wholly bloom
And they rise.                  
                        —James Dickey

They look ridiculous, lascivious coral
unsnowed on wet Northern lawns.
Or righted over the daffodils,
going nowhere on dulled aluminum poles.
When my sister married (the first time) she
staved dozens around the little backyard pond.
Champagne flowed, the groom got drunk, that night
in the suite's cruel privacy, he injured her.
She stayed seven livid years.  Today
in her red Mustang convertible
we drive to see them live.  Thousands
flow around cerulean water under the pure
zoo sky, thin stems stepping across wet sand
the brilliant bodies a cloud blossoming and
now a burst, a flare, a pair
of black-rimmed wings fanning aslant in air.
Now another.  But someone has cut
strategic feathers, they vector, veer, fall
back next to each other, circle, squawk, settle.
No heaven here:  my mind     her gaze: I want I wish

Yesterday a funeral, a bad X-ray,
futile the guessing—a future?
heart turns back, now ahead

now back again walking the dirt road
that ends at the meetinghouse by the covered bridge
at the cemetery where the first settlers are buried,

when over the houses and pine-quilled slopes
a strange luminous fog opened around me

the blue dark muscled onward
the sun not quite gone over
burning a bald rock face—bronze, red,

then amethyst, high over the thickening white—
too calm, I looked back,
a quick wind troubled my sleeves.

Once in my grief
I saw something of my brother appear
the night after the funeral

as I walked the floors of the house.
A place of whiteness, and sensed conveyance—
it is all right.

I am alright, I thought.
A president’s funeral played on the TV,
pictures of boys, brothers, husbands, my own,
in jungle fatigues washed out in static.

My brother, I said, not quite aloud,
so long it had been I’d spoken his name.

    .    .    .    .

You were a quick throw, baseball bat
in either hand, legs lean and fast.
You worked hard, played hard,

we walked the farm hand in hand,
kicked clumps of dirt, inhaled the richness.
What is it to lose a life you never

had time to live? I wonder now,
this thing in my chest, stone, or
lapsed piece of flesh over my heart.

That last night, all you’d been through,
trying to justify your unwanted arrival,
your life, then cancer, fifteen, the end.

What did you see when you said,
Everything is so beautiful . . . beautiful . . .
that vision you had as we stood around you

waiting, praying the night would not end,
your words continued in the rhythm of our breathing,
then you said—Do you love . . . ?

It fell among us like an unfinished sentence.
My heart turned around on its muscle.
Right then I loved you mightily.

That is what you became.

    .    .    .    .

Reddening leaves of maples falling
into the gold birches
and on the packed dirt road,

leaves scattering like melody
coming to rest,
my whole body was pulsing.

I got there in the darkness,
passed through that light filled fog,
went through the iron gate

which leaned open on loosened hinges.
Inside the stone fence the families’ hands
had laid, who lay now in perfect quiet

next to each other, I stood a long time,
the day shorn, my feet hurting.
I was going toward death, maybe.

Yet I was happy.  It was almost beyond beauty,
pine-fragrant, fog swirling the stillness,
the stones leaning, writing slowly vanishing.

I stood there.  I stood, wondering, a clear space.
Michael, my angel, how are you?
Emptiness overhead hurtling the stars farther.                    
                                                In Memoriam:  M.K.L.

My husband is making a scene—
a ladder about to tip over, pots of paint in disarray,
and orange flames.  His mother is dying.
She is not in it, she is already gone,
locked in the imbricated grays, the strewn
oils on the floor, her empty chair near the center.
And he is twenty again,
pupil and antagonist,
sprawled where her feet would be, his hands holding him upright.
The background is
the country town they summered in,
same street, same houses, same church with steeple.
The chair like the town
is nineteenth century, bygone,
a horseshoe arm rail with carved spindles.
She is not there, and if you did not know her
she cannot hold the painting together—
what you would see is emptiness, longing, and fire.
Which is what holds us together now.
He turns to my staring,
his eyes fly over me like blue gaps
to the track lights on the ceiling.
Where is she going?
Where are we all?
Next month he will be back at it,
regarding then moving in closer,
painting over the edges of flame.
It will look more tranquil, and sadder.
She will be gone.
He will not have finished it.

Rosemary Winslow
Rosemary Winslow teaches writing and literature at The Catholic University of America.  Her poems and essays on poetry have appeared widely in  journals and books, most recently in Beltway, Poet Lore, 32 Poems, The Schuykill Valley Journal, and Voices from Frost Place, and Don't Call It That.  She has published numerous essays on sound structure in poetry in Poetics Today, Language and Style, Composition Studies, The Encyclopedia of Twentieth Century American Poetry, and other places.  Her work has received awards and grants from The District of Columbia Commission on the Arts, NEH, the Vermont Studio Center, and other foundations.  She lives with her husband John, a visual artist, in downtown Washington, D.C.



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