From the archives – Crouching Female Figure: Pompeii — Gail White

Crouching Female Figure: Pompeii

At first they were not much afraid,
but hour by hour the ashes fell,
layer on layer overlaid—
the soft gray snow that falls in hell.

When panic came, her mistress said,
Lucilla, take the child and run.
But when she stumbled, both were dead.
Ashes had eaten up the sun.

Now, in an iron carapace
of ashes, here she crouches still,
shielding in vain her charge’s face
while tourists photograph their fill.

Could God explain in layman’s terms
what vices necrotized Pompeii,
when urban gods and rustic herms
were ashes in a single day?

No law, no logic eases pain
or stops the tidal wave of death.
Sinai and Etna both can rain
ashes that suffocate our breath.

by Gail White

from Autumn Sky Poetry Number 13, April 2009

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

From the archives – When Jesus Was Grown — Gail White

When Jesus Was Grown

His mother breathed a deep sigh of relief
when he turned 25 and nothing strange
had happened. (Maybe it was all a dream,
that business with the angel).

She might yet manage to arrange a match
with some nice Jewish girl — it was high time —
and then she could relax, look forward to
a few polite grandchildren.

But though he was the finest carpenter
for miles around, had really learned the trade,
and knew and loved the Torah, nonetheless
she had concerns about him.

He seemed too fond of prophecies about
the world turned upside down, and although she
was charitable to a fault, she felt
he loved the poor to excess.

And now there was a prophet drawing crowds,
living on locusts, wearing camel skin.
His preaching was outrageous, and she hoped
her son would never hear it.

by Gail White

from Autumn Sky Poetry Number 21, April 2011

Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim

Moving by Gail White


How difficult it is to move
even from simple place to place,
how hard to pack the books, to shove
the cat into its carrying case;

how hard to sit in Airport-land
through one more endless flight delay
while Trebizond or Samarkand
sits half a universe away;

how hard to get the papers filed
that separate you from your past,
newly and legally enisled,

and yet, and yet my father’s last
great journey out of self to shade—
how easily and quickly made.

by Gail White, first published in Measure

Editor’s note: Sonnets often say the hardest things with the most ease.

Cats Abroad by Gail White

Cats Abroad

“It is not worth the while to go round the world to count the cats in Zanzibar.” -Thoreau

The cats of England at the cottage door
look up expectant, when the milk man comes,
like furry Olivers who beg for more,
beneath a shelter of chrysanthemums.
The cats of Belgium in the baker’s shop
adorn a window — in the bar, a stool.
The cats of Greece, at every culture stop,
are waiting for a tourist to befool.
I judge the nations by the way they treat
these purry gentry just below their knees.
Where cats are loved, I know that strangers meet
a kindly welcome and a will to please.
Why spend so much and haul myself so far
if not to count the cats in Zanzibar?

by Gail White, first published in Sonnets in a Hostile World.

Editor’s note: This made me smile and sometimes that is all that is necessary.