The Weight of Him by Laura Foley

The Weight of Him

In the dental chair, my heart banging
against my ribs like a prisoner
in a burning jail, I remember
how cold Dad was, in cashmere coat,
well-shined leather shoes, shivering
as we walked from East End to York,
each step he took, among his last on Earth.

I imagine gravity dragging at his weight,
the heavy slowness of his gait.
If each of us cannot be anywhere
other than where we are, please explain
how I connect with the dead like this,
whenever the dental dam goes in,
whenever they say to me, be still.

by Laura Foley, first Published in One, Jacar Press

Editor’s Note: The imagery of this poem is startling and sharp as it layers multiple narratives atop each other.

We Named Her Cumpleaños by Laura Foley

We Named Her Cumpleaños

She cocooned on my birthday, spinning wildly all day,
then hung like a stilled green bell, from a leaf stem
I had placed in the open jug we called her home.

Ten days on, her covering turned translucent black,
giving a window view of her wings’
black and orange beauty.

Then, as we held our breath, some unnamed energy
seemed to leave, stopping the progress of change,
as if the thought of opening became too much to bear.

Still cocooned weeks past her time, my fool’s hope
chose to lay her gently on the ground
under the raspberry bush, well past the time of ripe berries,

but no god rose from her shroud,
and I wished to think no more of her, or birthdays,
and what they signify.

Still, I kept wondering, as the days shortened,
if I’d somehow wronged her,
in trying to direct her metamorphosis,

as winter barged in with its egotistical force,
its snow and wind burying
the shell from whence a soul had fled.

by Laura Foley, first Published in Muddy River Review.

Editor’s Note: This lament begins hopeful, but moves towards despair, and somehow feels fitting for this particular year in this particular civilization.

The Orchard On Its Way by Laura Foley

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.

Good by Laura Foley


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.

Transference by Laura Foley


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,
is strait-jacketed,
taken upstate.

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.

The Offering by Laura Foley

The Offering

These woods
on the edges of a lake
are settling now
to winter darkness.
Whatever was going to die
is gone—
crickets, ferns, swampgrass.
Bare earth fills long spaces of a field.
But look:
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 by Laura Foley

Twice the Speed of Sound

She waves to me
from the coach window,
shadowed glass reflecting
summer trees,
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 by Laura Foley

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 by Laura Foley

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.

Not Humming by Laura Foley

Not Humming

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.