What to Save by MJ Werthman White

What to Save

Once you start you won’t be able to stop; there’s no room anyway
for baby pictures, grandmother’s quilt, for the novel
you never got around to finishing; let them go.

Let smoke, water, and mold have at them; finally you will understand
ephemeral. People? Animals? Start with the irksome,
the difficult. Start with yourself, your ex,

include his spooky blue-eyed Persian cat, the one who hisses at you.
Drive. Away. Don’t look back; keep going. Refugee
enters your vocabulary. The sky burns orange

in your rearview mirror and rising water covers the hubcaps,
while a wind fells giant trees in your path like
the moving hand of God.

by MJ Werthman White

Editor’s Note: This poem’s plethora of punctuation serves as a metaphorical wall between the “irksome” past and the future that could hold freedom, if only the reader listens to the speaker’s hard-won advice.

August by MJ Werthman White


August in the garden, month of lost causes and spent desire, when the echinacia,
purple coneflower, admits defeat, surrendering bleakly with a few final leaves.

Under the mailbox, the catmint, nepeta, finally finishes blooming, gone feral
in his grief at being dumped by the bees, The iris, long past their expiration
dates, are depressed, spears turning brown, burnt tips crisped by the brutal
sun. Even the daylilies find themselves incapable of moving on, listlessly
continuing to push up random bright blooms, if only to meanly remind
us of what was and will not be again until next summer. Because the rains
did not desert us this year, the grass retains his unnatural, obnoxious green,
and the dogwood, unstressed by drought so far, avoids her annual breakdown,
hanging bravely onto her leaves. Happiest of all are my rudbeckia, black-eyed
Susan riot grrrls exploding up and down the lot line. No longer light when I rise,

I walk into darkness to fetch the paper and find myself succumbing to something
seductive in the cool, moving air that whispers promises of big changes soon to come.

by MJ Werthman White

Editor’s Note: Personification is used in this poem to great effect, giving us a peek into the world of the plants, with all their seasonal desires and disappointments.