JENNE' R ANDREWS
For You Have I Stayed My Wanderlust
Wild geese exult beneath the far-flung
jewel case of winter firmament;
Leaving you for home, our tallowed
and flickering tenderness is a book I close
unmarked and in mid-narrative.
Liberated, rejoicing in the late hour,
I gun the truck over the ruts, ease it over
the bridge, yielding on the round-about
to the lagging, cattle-laden eighteen
wheeler before the straightaway
of three miles south. Once I danced
in the eiderdown snow, flapped my small,
short wings in oceanic air, and then I
descended – I had seen my mother
in the kitchen, drawing a knife over her
wrist like someone quartering an orange.
For her, I stayed my wanderlust in the way
of the poplars, putting down thin black roots,
pushing up in spindled volition, climbing
the ladders of day, eye-lashing the moon
with myriad silver leaves then parched,
dying back. The barrio houses I pass now,
the river of Spanish that flows beneath their
foundations, the patient, small golden windows,
the furred tongues of the doorsteps
are themselves without premeditation;
they refuse to be torn down. I am not Ophelia
or Evangeline: I am drunk on straight,
ever-clear asphalt. No sign of badged
and drowsing watchmen beaming across
the dark envelope of the fields; I gamble all
then, accelerating until I am a blown glass rose
in a delirium, lifting itself from the cradle
of a cloistered hand.
Some say melting icebergs measure
the remaining hours of man,
as do fish that beach themselves,
young birds that falling, cleave the air,
but how is the time between two
measured if not in a comely dance of hours,
the mating and waiting game
of the leviathan of the singing seas,
those that rise, arc and take the plunge;
so do you and I arc and plunge,
splayed sea stars
in a valse triste.
For here the clouds explode and our world
as we knew it ends
so that it is white, white and cold,
the highways like blackening scars
across the landscape, intertwining
chasms for those
imperiled by a storm.
I stand at your bedside
where your hand withers;
now you are an olive tree
and I am a swan,
in a coat moon bright.
What is it that comes this way?
The furnace clicks on and off,
the power lines sag;
we drive the trucks
to groove a way out, a way in –
I am here,
we were there, and all, all
Even as the oaks lining the street
set their jade kimonos on fire,
the old woman in grey shorts and t-shirt
abruptly slumped over at the nurse’s station,
her head to her chest;
we wheeled her back to her room,
where others dreamed, aluminum frames
tenting the sheets above their parchment legs.
We tucked her in and set her John Denver CD
to replay; at first her cheeks flushed
and she spoke a muted sibilance –
her hands mimed swan-flight,
a private dialect of folding towels.
Across the hours the cards slapped down,
ace of time in spades, queen of aching hearts;
with self-consoling moans she breached and dove
into the white sea of the bed,
mermaid with pale hair streaming back.
I felt one tail fluke and saw she was burning up,
called the nurse; a mothering seagull placed
liquid morphine on her tongue;
She labored on, bearing down
to push the dark, slick whale calf out;
we came and went like wraiths in a squall,
changing the wet sheets,
swabbing out her mouth.
I kept a vigil far into the night
while she traveled to the pier she saw
in sun-lanced haze,
where dark-haired women waited
with scuffed valises to embark
in split cocoons of boats
made of silk and light,
to the shore of a pulsing Orient
of still skyscrapers and stopped traffic
waiting for the black butterflies
of last breath.
I sang to her and know not what she heard,
and pulled myself away,
lying down in my metal bed, my sentinel’s ear
cocked, touching that thin and peeling membrane
between our rooms
keeping back the midnight sea.
In 2010, after a disabling fall from a horse, poet Jenne’ R Andrews gave up ranching in Colorado and returned to a full-time writing life begun in the 70s. Her poems have appeared in Belletrist Coterie, The Adirondack Review, The Ontario Review, The Seneca Review, The Colorado Review, The Lamp in the Spine, and many other journals and anthologies; her collections include Reunion (Lynx House Press), The Dark Animal of Liberty (Leaping Mountain Press) and In Pursuit of the Family (Minnesota Writers Publishing House, edited by Robert Bly). She completed the Colorado State University M.F.A. in 1988 and is a literary fellow of the National Endowment of the Arts. She posts reviews of contemporary poetry to her blog Loquaciously Yours and work in draft to La Parola Vivace.