Two Poems


Who’d build a solar house in this dense wood.
Faint light can barely penetrate the pines
and wickerwork of deciduous branches.

It is so cold I welcome how your Chow
clambers into the bed where I shiver
in my winter coat beneath a quilt

thin as skim milk. How did you stand it
when he ran off to Yellow Springs
leaving you this project

of insufficiency. I’m grinding
coffee beans with vanilla, my fingers blue
as Dutch tiles of the backsplash

watching a few early crocuses perk
along the riverbank as sleety rain
starts to fall.

I’m not turned on by women,
I have to tell you, taking the couch
the night before you leave

for the low-res program at Goddard.
We kiss goodbye, your little car vanishing
as I watch from an upstairs window.

I read the journal you’ve left bedside
like an invitation. How the crepey skin
on the neck of your older lover

excites you with its prurient
decay. Droopy breasts, small kettle
of the belly, fine wrinkles of her upper lip.

It’s like a paean to departures
of jotted memories: detassling corn
like every rural kid, that man you married

had babies with, the words all wrong
zigzagging in your head as you stood ironing
and thought What am I doing.

These small rooms ordered
exactly as you designed. Books alphabetized
upon the shelves. A library of capture.

I still the impulse to disengage
titles into chaos, and sweep the floor,
spritz the windows, smooth your narrow bed.

Eve of the Day

In the far north, in the darkened hours
when the light is snuffed
like a candle

and you gather near the hearth
of the storyteller and listen
so intently your heart

blazes up
in a celebration of sparks,
it is then

you learn to hope beyond the cold stars
the runes foretold. So new stories
replace old stories. Gods disembark

from dragonships as the child of peace
walks barefoot through the snow.
Does it matter what you believe

if the light returns, if the days
stretch out their little hands
with bouquets of everlasting.

Burn the great log by the sea
and fit the new words
to the old warsongs.

How people have always stood
together while neon skies rave
counting on some promise

made ages ago,
improvised and polished like the touchstone,
like the torches dipped in oil,

the child swaddled on the cradleboard.

Joan Colby

Joan Colby has published widely in journals such as Poetry, Atlanta Review, South Dakota Review, Gargoyle, Pinyon, Little Patuxent Review, Spillway, Midwestern Gothic, and others. Awards include two Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards and an Illinois Arts Council Fellowship in Literature. She has published 16 books including Selected Poems from FutureCycle Press, which received the 2013 FutureCycle Prize, and Ribcage from Glass Lyre Press, which has been awarded the 2015 Kithara Book Prize. Three of her poems have been featured on Verse Daily and another is among the winners of the 2016 Atlantic Review International Poetry Contest. Colby is a senior editor of FutureCycle Press and an associate editor of Kentucky Review.