Poetry: Selections from Justine McCabe



Lament

Because
time after time
you don’t remember
Clifford
or the nearness
of me
or
someone
to watch over
your funny valentine
when she
fell in love
with her sweet,
embraceable
you.
 
Blame it on your youth.
 
Especially
when autumn leaves begin
to fall
somewhere over the rainbow,
and you teach me tonight
a stardust melody
so tenderly
in the shadow of your smile.
 
Will your body and soul
never let me go
in moonlight
in Vermont,
or in
a place for us,
Somewhere?



Lady of the Wetlands 

In the dying season,
a beatific lady
appears
before her
marshy flock.
 
Statuesque,
she emerges
from a
desiccated
woodland
home.
 
Unmoving,
she parts
the golden
rushes
nestled
around her.
 
Somehow
she endures
beyond
the woebegone
sticks
that
envelop
her
like a
lichen-tattooed
stockade.
 
I gaze across
her wetland
plain:

multitudes of
khaki reeds
cluster
in throngs
of teetering
long
necks,
silent
until
breezes stir
their
feathery heads
to whispering
chatter.
 
Farther away,
rugged cattails
crane
their
velvety pods
for a glimpse
behind
more
lofty neighbors.
 
My feet fly
along the water’s
edge
where
the least among them
have collapsed
from
cold and rain
into
flaxen tents,
bent
in lachrymose
devotion.
 
The lady’s eyes
follow
as I pass by.

Comforted,
I fear
this transcendent encounter
will vanish.
 
Why this
sudden
apparition
after
running by
for years?
 
Have dreams
of a mother
departed
flowed into
wetland visions?
 
Have nocturnal
visitations
from a carousel
of memories
evoked this
sylvan madonna,
hands folded
as if
in prayer?
 
Her witness is haunting,
a presence
summoning
radiance
amidst a bog
of sorrow.
 
She beckons me:
Feel the pulsation,
the eternal membrane
that survives
beneath us all.
 
Deus sive natura.

Appearing, disappearing
ascending and descending
 
Floating in and out
on a silky track
that moves
while
standing still.



(Silence) in the Time of Pandemics

silence:
please don’t
leave
 
NOISE
 
Of dissention,
division, and strife,
circling wetlands
of splendor with
civic blight;
suppressing
the music of
bullfrog
strummers,
exhausting the buzz
of cicadas (dusk-singing)
in summer;
smothering the rustle
of enlightened trees
whose dappling leaves
grow under
my feet.
 
silence:
please
don’t
leave
 
NOISE
 
Of combustion,
retaking the streets
and warehouse

floors where
fulfillment essentials
sweat
wage differentials
while maples and ginkgoes
in concrete containers
fend off exhaust(ion) and—
tremble, tremble.  
 
silence:
please,
don’t
leave
 
NOISE
 
That clutches
my chest,
seizes my gut,
and heaves
my body
in two;
that sucks breath
from
my cage
of panic (and rage);
chokes off
respirations,
incites palpitations
while
blaring
despair,
sorrow,
and
uncertainty.
 
silence,
please.  



Back to the Future 

I awoke today
from my first COVID dream.
No one wore masks.
It was Election Day.
 
The whole world
on a ballot
though they
couldn’t vote;
missing liberal
(dis)order,
no reason
to gloat.
 
They’re
wringing
their hands
like those of us
here,
with
Lady Liberty
yearning,
and
walling
out
fear.
 
We’re supposed
to be lucky,
perhaps even saved,
if we just
could return
to establishment
ways:

When
the planet was burning
and resistance
controlled;
 
When
bloated
defense
left people
starving
and out
in the
cold;
 
When
Palestinians,
workers,
and
health-
care
refugees
still
yearned
for
a scrap
of relief
from
exception(al)
dis-
ease.



Heartsong

It’s good you have that big chest
to hold a heart too big.
 
That chest that thunders
ba-boom, ba-boom,
and rouses us from sleep.
 
How does a heart
become
too full?
 
Did it give
too much away?
 
Did it shed
too many tears
for broken hearts
bled by hearts
too small?
 
Does that
swollen muscle
pump
too much
heat,
fuming
at what’s wrong?
 
Its lifeblood
leaking
heartache
for an earth
that gasps
for air?

Should your heart
grow
too big
and need
a larger home,
let it nestle here (where it belongs),
in the cradle of my soul.





Justine McCabe is a cultural anthropologist and practicing clinical psychologist with several academic publication credits. She enjoys doing play therapy with children, walking in nearby wetlands, and writing letters to editors, several of which have been published in The New York Times. Her op-eds have been published in The Hartford Courant, The Litchfield County Times, and The CT Mirror as well as essays in Green Horizon Magazine. Her poetry has appeared in Evening Street Review, Flights and Avalon Literary Review.

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