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Monthly Archives: May 2009

Broken Ribs

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To heal completely, you must sit for six weeks
near your open window, taking deep breaths
to prevent the rank deployment of pneumonia,
to avoid what settles in when weakened lungs go slack.
Can you smell fresh blossoms along Thoreau Street,
or fragrant breezes blown from Walden Pond
over White Pond where you used to swim,
gallant-shouldered, with all your grandchildren?
Can you taste the salt of the Atlantic? Today as you wait
for phone calls from lifelong friends, I sit within
a gated park overlooking the ageless
Pacific, azalea bushes in full bloom, each flower
vanilla and five-petaled, so strongly perfumed
that the small brown rabbits who hide within them
peddle their cure-alls. One rabbit is dashing from bush
to bush across a hillock. Now she stops, stock-still,
just beyond my knees. It seems she does not breathe.
It seems she is not afraid of me, merely asking whether
I am more frightened than you are, dear Mother,
by how easily we all crumble, by unbridged distances,
by thickly-laden oceans lapping away our shores.
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by Therese L. Broderick
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(An artist’s statement about this poem appears as the first comment.)

“Qualms”

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,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,QUALMS
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…………………………It sounds like calms but means the opposite.
…………………………Not some warm May evening by our pond, but
…………………………a helicopter roving over, seeming too low
…………………………(one definition, “feelings of uneasiness” );
…………………………and not the smooth Missouri voice of our pilot
…………………………as we descend, but a peculiar vapor blowing
…………………………in a thin stream over the bulge of one wing.
…………………………Should we tell somebody else about them, or not?
…………………………That’s always the moral question with qualms
…………………………(another definition, “pangs of conscience”)
…………………………for if we speak out, we bother the crowd,
…………………………set off alarms which could be warranted
…………………………or could be false. Better to keep both eyes
…………………………focused on water lily leaves, resist the call
…………………………button above our window-side cabin seats.
…………………………Let’s all stay as calm as we can. Calm as clams.
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…………………………by Therese L. Broderick
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…………………………(A writer’s statement appears as the first comment.)
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On Turning Fifty

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I have become all that I could not do.
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I stand shorn on a worn, green hill
knowing only
the last call I can issue
and answer to.
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All but one whom I have loved
are here in a circle tossing,
turn by turn,
a soft ball
to the smallest nephew.
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The one missing,
still missed.
I could not bring him back.
I have grown into that lacking, too.
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Now the youngest
says my name, sings my name.
Aunt, Aunt.
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I think of Sappho,
of the girl who died,
her sisters who cut their hair
and cried.
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Hair like the grass
I bend to
as sunlight fails
when play is done.
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What I could not do, I am become.
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by Therese L. Broderick
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(An artist statement about this poem appears as the first comment.)

“Watch Your Step”

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WATCH YOUR STEP
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In less time than it takes to say it, my husband gets up
from his place beside me on the couch, then trips
on the arch of his footstool, lurches forward just past
the green armchair occupied by the cat, lands on his bad
left foot then careens to the right, stumbling toward
the nearest edge of a high table on which are displayed
our photos of weddings, babies, hiking vacations,
finds at the last possible moment before one eye hits the corner
some wall space on which to brace his hands, forcing
his body to come to a halt just as my thoughts begin
sliding on the debris which remains of this evening’s
once solid assumption : we shall watch our show together
as we always have. We can almost predict the ending.
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by Therese L. Broderick
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(A writer’s statement appears as the first comment.)
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Tulip Festival

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I like to see the newest, most fragile offerings alongside
the old and loamy. Each May, some upstart frilly-headed tulip
gains ground in gardens named for General Washington
and silver trinkets shimmer across from carts of pretzels.
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Masses of visitors — college students, families, singles —
change every year like the Facebook album of a casual friend,
but always a few regulars appear, people I’ve known for decades
like bookmarked photos in a local history text, me as editor
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updating captions : divorced ; last month lost his job ; once again
fighting cancer. This year I pass by hammered aluminum plates
dedicated to Navy vets, hand-carved wooden dioramas,
tie-dyed shirts, sleeveless dresses. Usual wares. What attracts me
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instead are these small hot air balloons made of glass,
hung on string from the top frame of a white canvas booth.
To me, they are fresh revelations — slim red and blue ribbons
on one, yellow-green chevrons on another — although I know
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from writing my poems that nothing stays new for long. Like this vendor
I could blow some shallow breaths into a few precious shapes,
place each at a different height so that when spring winds
or rude teens rush by, they shiver but don’t collide — even then
some old thick danger, a city’s pit-bull, might wreak its havoc.
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by Therese L. Broderick
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(An artist’s statement about this poem appears as the first comment.)

a better look

at the storm blowing in

was all I sought

a moment ago

from an upstairs window

 

but now I see

his shadowed shirt, stranger

sitting in a Jeep parked

in our driveway. 

 

For hours

he has been waiting

for his friend talking quietly

with my husband.

 

The postman came

and went, blue eagle

squinting with one eye

from the side of his truck.

 

Did school children walk by

without their slickers?

 

My husband talks and talks.

After his meeting I’ll have to ask

what does he know.

 

By then rain will be falling,

a daughter will be home

upstairs in her bedroom where

she can’t hear us

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ABOUT THIS POEM

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Fact & Fiction —

The statements in this poem are autobiographically accurate. As I began writing this poem, the individual was still there. Clouds were gathering for a downpour later this evening. My husband has seen the poem ; he says the poem is more mysterious than the situation may have been.

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Sound & Sense —

In this poem, I aim for mystery through two main strategies. First, line breaks that function primarily for wariness (ex.,  “he has been waiting” and “watching from the side”). Second, imagery :  storm, shadowed shirt, vigilant eagle, children who might get caught in the rain, downpour. I run the title straight into the first line for the abrupt effect, like an unexpected sighting.

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Banana Paper

more scalp than halo
tan than yellow
 
crinkled speckled sheets
which someone like me
suburban white
buys as souvenir
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(I saw the Costa Ricans
lifting crates in their orchards)
 
At home I eat organic
should compost the peels
could write about all that’s wrong
but don’t
 
One produce aisle at Price Chopper —
half a world’s supply
of notebooks
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(I drove past San Ramon)
 
The lokta from Nepal
serves just as well
so I’m told
for words of protest
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ABOUT THIS POEM
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Fact & Fiction —
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This poem was inspired by Roberta Gould’s poetry reading at Caffe Lena (Saratoga Springs, NY) on May 6, 2009. Her poems about Mexico reminded me of the banana paper I purchased on a trip to Costa Rica ; and her book printed in Nepal reminded me of the Nepal paper I purchased at a Ten Thousand Villages shop. According to Ms. Gould’s website, she has done educational work on responsible tourism. While my family members strive to be responsible as both local homeowners and travelers abroad, we could probably do better. I now live in a city, near a Price Chopper, but was raised in the suburbs.
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Sound & Sense —
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The sound of this poem was influenced by the work of Roberta Gould, both the poems she read aloud, and the texts in her books : short, direct phrases, some of which appear on the page to overrun one another.  As this poem developed, I adopted many short and long “o” sounds, an accidental sonic pattern.
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