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Sample Poems by Pamela Harrison

Her Wisteria

Beside our house, visible from the table
Mother set for all our breakfasts,
stood a stone fountain whose barefoot girl

waited to fill her urn within the shelter
of an over-growing vine—wisteria’s
gnarled wood my father pruned each March

to spur the growth of pendant flowers and make
a fragrant bower for my mother. Lavender
haloed the maiden’s head as she leaned dreaming,

chin upon her hand, and the over-flowing water fell
into a scalloped pool where songbirds flew
to slake their thirst all summer long.

March again,
and the empty unsprung fields are raked
by winds that slick the roads.

March, the month of Mother’s birth,
on the very day the earth’s vernal scale
comes briefly to rest, balancing

the shortened night with lengthened day. In this pause,
when the land lies in its breathless trance,
the starving spirit longs for the season’s turn.


That summer, I spent every waking hour
at a swimming pool sunk in the red dirt
east of town. Mother dropped me there.
I don’t know how she passed her days.

It was the year her picture changed.
Her smile was darkly lipsticked on,
her eyebrows painted to a point as though
she was caught in some permanent surprise.

Now she’s gone, what I recollect
is being in the water alone, bobbing
in the deep end, rising on a downward
stroke of arms, taking a breath and letting it out

all the way to the bottom. I did this for hours,
hearing the laughter and shouts of others,
blowing them away.

Little Curls of Steam

Water trickled softly from her wash cloth,
and little curls of steam clouded the mirror.
I perched after school on the toilet’s closed top,
and we talked in the warm tiled room.

Mother bathed with practiced care,
pushing back the cuticle on each finger and toe,
freeing the pale moons risen there.
Her head bent to the work like prayer.

After all these years—still, the sound of water falling,
fragrance of Ivory soap, the unembarrassed grooming
of a woman who never flinched in her nakedness,
who lived in her deepest heart, sequestered.

Little Boy Blue

By the age of three she parsed
the newspaper on her father’s lap.
She started second grade at the age of five,
and the teacher picked her to star as Fauntleroy.
Little Vera memorized the script entire.

Don’t you wonder what that middle child
of the farmer’s scrambling seven thought
when Miss Whateverhernamewas invited
the prodigy home for special fittings
of the aristocrat’s satin pants?

Horsehair sofa, starched antimacassars,
and romantic porcelain figurines posed
in the spinster’s parlor. Vera must have thought
she’d won a ticket to the World Museum.
Who can say what dreams took hold

as the six-year-old looked down
at her dear teacher kneeling to pin the hem
of knickers radiant as a sapphire sky? Miracles
must have seemed as sure as summer rain.
Mother wouldn’t say, whenever she told the story, why

the family had to move so suddenly away,
two days before the show.
Afterwards, she started over as a boy,
wearing her brothers’ pants,
insisting she was “Jimmy”.