width=61 height=87> Voracious Verses


Janet Sylvester
featured poet, 2008

Marionette Lines

The English shrink who reports that January 24th
is the most depressing day of any year,
isn’t in this poem on January 25th—behind clouds
replete with snow, the moon milkily absent,
roadside drifts beginning to steam at every corner
already awash with slush.  I like winter.
I like to have lived through its worst:  the solvable
problem of the child buried by the plow,
the convict’s commutation dropped into wet
that merely soaks its envelope, and crows,
dozens of them, bunched like onyx apples
on the trees’ bare branches above my car.

Tonight it’s better not to look too far.  Instead,
I focus on the oval the little Christmas tree,
untrimmed and living still in its green container,
breathes clear into the window’s icy vapor,
down which runnels drip that, tomorrow,
will freeze into pretty snowflake shapes with sun
the weatherman assures us is on the way,
along with a drop in temperature.  Whatever
I used to know doesn’t matter.  My student,
who wasn’t awarded the scholarship,
in a hand-written note has informed me, nonetheless,

with all of the politesse of Mumbai and many
of its syllables, that he thanks me; the insurance man-
of-few-words assures me that my check’s been cashed;
a choking and unsayable distress, like loneliness,
that overcame me this morning in a waiting room
that had flooded and was crammed with industrial fans—
all are one thought about what it will feel like,
someday, to be old, a primary-care physician,
as mine did, examining, then lightly stroking
the indecipherable ache in the ligament
of the little finger of the left, my writing hand.

© 2006 Janet Sylvester

Previously Appeared in:
Harvard Review, No. 31, 2006

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