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Sample Poems by Christine Potter


To My Husband, Who Dreamed of Tidal Waves as His Father Was Dying

I think of your father born, instead,
in a hospital I have never visited: bright high windows,
sun drifting across iron beds painted white,
bulbous black telephones, their cords covered in brown cloth.
Someone's typing echoes down a green linoleum hall.

Or born in a farmhouse near an uphill road.
Bitter nightshade strings its red berries onto the front porch.
Your grandmother sleeps after the delivery;
the family walks uneven floorboards outside her room.

Listen to me. No matter how well you remember an Indiana sky,
you cannot say for certain whether God's hands were closed
or remained open. That's why we come to doubt
that sky can reveal the secret of any birth.
So it all tumbles apart after an hour or two of watching:
splashes of blue tangled in clouds, the stars
bleached out, hidden under day, invisible as inner rooms
of a neighbor's house. Everything but light lies.

And what I am telling you is absolutely still, too sun-shot
for easy revelation. It is all we have. It is rest after labor,
the Ohio River wrinkling silver under the splintery wooden prow
of a tied-up boat. You and I have not arrived, yet. Your father
has just been born, and the story of what will happen next
is taking a breath before it can go on.

And what happens in the end
is no tidal wave: the sun goes down. Your father
moves to Florida. Suddenly, there is less traffic
on the street outside. The roof line of your grandparents' house
fades to cobalt, to indigo, and disappears in the night
like a round stone dropped in deep water.
You need not know this story to tell it, and
it is not even secret:

the stars are back again,
silent as new ice and perfect, perfect„
the pinpricks of a million questions and answers
the huge, white blossoming of time.



Last Warm Night on the Patio at the Italian Restaurant

The moon is yellow, past full, the Hudson
an aluminum road upstate. It's too dark.
The waiter says there are no more candles in jars;
the tables came in during the first cold snap,
but tonight everyone wants outside, outside!

We frown at the wine list under a string of tiny lights
tangled in the cast-iron gate. I wish for a sweater.
Something cold and permanent breathes in the shadows,
smelling of rain, but it's not even a breeze yet.

You order Luna di Luna. A car on Broadway
high beams the next table's martinis into glowing cones.
Tomorrow night, the moon will be elsewhere.
We might not even bother with it.

I think of the moon through the windows of houses
where I no longer live. I think of moonlight
reflected in the mirrors of widows, moonlight
dribbling onto my fingers like tears, moonlight
that is never enough. You sip wine

in moonlight steady and pale as all-day snow,
but still alive with the slow rattle of insect song.
How can I miss you so much as you sit here beside me?
It's like imagining the coming frost: moonlight left behind
at daybreak, slid over brick walkways and patches of grass.

Tonight, I want to tell you the moon can see everything,
but that's too easy an answer. Maybe it's just winter coming,
or how many different colors one night can be. How quiet
we are, lost in the complicated normalcy of whatever is changing around us,
whatever is endlessly saying goodbye.


On the Closing of Ichi-Riki, Nyack, NY (Where I Have Eaten For Twenty Years)

When dining on sashimi seemed as dear
as ninety-minute phone calls, out of state,
to boyfriends I should never have gone near,
I came here anyway and cleaned my plate

of everything except that spikey herb,
the garnish, near the ginger and wasabi„
but since I'm older, I am undisturbed
by doomed relationships, my former hobby.

Now I can order toro without guilt
and easily afford to pay the bill,
this restaurant's closing and my youth is spilt.
Epiphany at last; I feel its chill:

time's passage is the most expensive dish,
a truth in life and love--and in raw fish.


Sleeping in an Empty House

April 2003

Upstairs, the 1740 roof line slumbers under masonite
slapped up in the fifties. Steam haunts the bright acoustic,
creaks the way a boat strains at its moorings. We've played

ńI Am the Captain of the Pinaforeî on a Victorian upright
the last owners left, fallen asleep in the dining room
on our trundle bed hauled in after we signed all the papers.

Tonight, renovation seems lobotomy
performed by agreeable architects and contractors
after they plastic bag the brown mineral doorknobs.

We don't yet know the chimney leaks creosote behind the walls,
how the wiring, too, could lose us this place.
We haven't seen the single, perfect beam, half-covered with bark

and marked with the swing of a forgotten axe
that still supports the kitchen. Now, the moon awakens me,
newly-risen, full as a bellyache. I get up and wipe clean

counters I will order demolished in three weeks,
to watch the blue trees through glass ridged by time.
It's someone's wedding veil, that light over the brook„

and how fast water moves under the footbridge,
its strange, loud brilliance.