The Orchard On Its Way
I wish it would slow,
not the train, but the ponies
shivering in a rain-soaked pasture,
a hundred geese fluttering
in a soggy field,
the eagles we saw this morning
from a station in Vermont,
their wild mating dance—
not the train, but the passing
into memory—I want it all
to last, the chimney falling
back to bricks,
the orchard on its way to bud,
the kiss you gave me
twenty miles back.
by Laura Foley, first Published in DMQ Review.
Editor’s Note: Nostalgia and yearning move through this poem. The last two lines are perfect.
I call the old soldier,
who knew my late father in the war.
Oh yes, he says, when he finally picks up,
your dad operated on me, saved my life
in the prison camp, China, 1943.
Today I’m ninety-five,
you’ve caught me in the car,
on my way to a gambling day,
playing craps with friends.
Good for the adrenaline,
as your good dad would say.
After we hang up, I see adrenaline
and nitroglycerine, the vials he kept
in his black leather bag, worn thin
at the sides. I smell the slight
antiseptic tang, and his laugh
comes through too: tight,
forced as his gripping hands.
Good, he was a doctor,
and not a Kamikaze, good he saved lives,
though he lost me, like Gretel,
looking for crumbs in a dark forest,
looking for the good in him, the good
everyone else seems to see.
by Laura Foley, from WTF, CW Books.
Editor’s Note: This narrative poem uses the title to introduce the reader to the narrator’s imperfect knowledge of her father, with all its emotional difficulties.
The inmate says he wants
to smash someone’s head
against a concrete floor.
My brother’s stolen
my land, and here I am
stuck in jail.
His face is livid,
his fist twitching.
We spend all day
meditating in silence;
eight hours in a quiet room
with a concrete floor,
I breathe his anger in.
The next morning,
my neck’s so stiff and sore,
I have to hold my head
with my hands to save my neck
from its weight.
The inmate punches a guard,
Six months till my head
and neck exhale, six months
to heal the ache.
by Laura Foley, first published in Mom Egg Review.
Editor’s Note: Sometimes empathy isn’t enough.
on the edges of a lake
are settling now
to winter darkness.
Whatever was going to die
crickets, ferns, swampgrass.
Bare earth fills long spaces of a field.
a single oak leaf
brown and shining
like a leather purse.
See what it so delicately offers
lying upturned on the path.
See how it reflects in its opened palm
a cup of deep, unending sky.
by Laura Foley, from Syringa.
Editor’s Note: The spare imagery of this poem perfectly depicts the quietude of winter, and its possibilities.
Twice the Speed of Sound
She waves to me
from the coach window,
shadowed glass reflecting
her face dappled
by a scree of boughs and leaves
I can’t see through—
maples not yet reddening into fall—
as she rides one plane
after another over no rough seas,
into no threatened war,
no lack of easy communication;
still, the space expands
like the universe:
galaxies begetting galaxies,
worlds yet unnamed—
despite phone calls bouncing
from one far-flung tower
to another, while our wide world
keeps rolling under us
at twice the speed of sound.
by Laura Foley, first published in Peacock Journal.
Editor’s Note: In this poem, the narrator’s relationship to a departed loved one uses surreality to suggest the ephemerality of connection.
In the Honda Service Area
We’re sitting knee-to-knee
while her car gets new brakes, mine new fluids.
She discusses hip replacement,
in warrior-like detail, with a friend,
each slice to flesh, how skin is spread
from bone, the pain she’s in, her plans when she gets home,
the miracle of titanium. I’m trying not to hear,
two foam plugs squeezed snugly in my ears,
head bent low over The Iliad. I’m at the part
where Achilles, known for ripping limbs,
breaking hips apart, rests angry in his tent,
saying he will not fight, not for shining pots of gold,
nor the seven dancing girls Agamemnon offers.
But, time and again, her new hips, titanium and strong as a god’s,
break through the bronze age scene, her voice
a wave dissolving the Trojan beach.
by Laura Foley, from Night Ringing (Headmistress Press)
Editor’s Note: The juxtaposition of modern repair (both mechanical and human) with ancient damage creates a narrative that spans an eon as well as mere moments.
The Absent Place
Her husband rests
in the slanting Adirondack chair,
centered on the lawn he’s just cut,
for the first time this summer—
the one they know is her last,
though she’s not yet sixty.
He savors the fragrant spice
of shorn grass and blooming lavender,
forgetting, for a moment,
her countless tumors,
the malignant blooming.
She heats water in a copper pot,
stirs in sugar, simmers a new batch
of hummingbird nectar,
as the tiny whirring birds arrive:
one, then two, then one again,
hovering in the absent place
where the feeder once hung.
by Laura Foley, first published in Valparaiso Poetry Review.
Editor’s Note: Sometimes the sorrow happens before the death.
On the forced march
from Tientsin to Woosung,
our Marines, ordered silent—
no humming or singing
snapped the Japanese,
as the men trudged
a hundred miles to prison.
My father, not humming,
the whole of four winters,
or to my knowledge, since.
by Laura Foley, first published in Joy Street (Headmistress Press).
Editor’s Note: The simple narrative of this poem belies the overwhelming emotional impact.
The Sounds Oblivion Makes
We’re in the barn,
my job to pour gasoline
into the carburetor
of the old Toyota wagon,
as he cranks the key repeatedly,
and when the can ignites—
burns my lashes, eyebrows—
I drop it, flaming, onto dry hay
and for a panicked interim
we run back and forth,
moan and yelp like animals,
as we fill buckets from the horse trough,
dump water on flames,
fire lapping the barn walls,
cackling with greedy glee,
and my little sister, on a weekend visit,
oblivious on the lawn watching us,
pets the purring cat.
by Laura Foley, first published in Harpur Palate.
Milton Kessler Memorial Poetry Award Winner
Editor’s Note: The panicked emotion in this poem is perfectly conveyed by the single, long sentence. Also, cats are indifferent to the suffering of humans.