West Second Street, Oswego, 1986 by Marybeth Rua-Larsen

West Second Street, Oswego, 1986

I remember the walk more
than the movie. Your birthday,
your choice, you’d said, and it was

a luxury to lock our front door behind us,
follow the sidewalk downtown.
We stopped first at the river,

watched the moon back-stitch its silver
through the surface while the carp,
those golden outsiders never intending

to stay, rolled beneath then rose,
open-mouthed, gaping like the family
we’d left behind. Every step past

the flickering marquee, its dim bulbs framing
Pretty in Pink, was ghost-lit, and creeping
to the farthest, darkest seats,

we whispered all through the movie –
how easily carp learn moving water,
how salt lingers on the tongue

waiting for relief. After the film arced
at the prom dress, all polka dots and bare
shoulders, the momentary spark

before it drifted away, we walked
home, passing a shadow of narcissus
in a stranger’s garden. The moon hid

this time, fooled by a mask of clouds,
and with your arms around me, we paused, again,
at the river, listened as wave after small wave

spilled its troubles on the shore,
chanting I won’t let go, I won’t let go,
I won’t let go.

by Marybeth Rua-Larsen, first published in Poetry and Art: an exhibition of contemporary poetry and responsive art

Editor’s Note: Delicious imagery details an emotional moment, but by the end of the poem, the reader is convinced that this moment still exists, thirty-two years later.

Bird Bones by Marybeth Rua-Larsen

Bird Bones

You were born with bird bones,
strong, hollow, light enough

to let you fly, like the crows
on our maple who squawk and scatter

with every honked horn
but return in the quiet,

determined to stay. I’ve read
crows study faces, remember

what we do, hold us accountable,
and I hope your memory

is shorter,
that you’ve forgiven me

my one long strand of hair
wound around your newborn

finger, turning it blue,
the grief it took us

forty-five minutes to find,
stripping you naked, unraveling

the cause of all
those tears, and I know

what the crows know: that we line
our nests with the bones

of our ancestors and the fallen,
defending our murders,

pulling them deeper
into our folds.

by Marybeth Rua-Larsen, first published in the Wickford Art Association’s Poetry and Art Exhibit book and the anthology Poeming Pigeons.

Editor’s Note: This poem is one long exhalation. The juxtaposition of bones, hair, and birds with a child and a parent’s worry is breathtaking because it slips emotion in through the spaces of the narrative.

Snow Day by Marybeth Rua-Larsen

Snow Day

. . . . . . . .A Hot Steam’s somebody who can’t get to heaven, just wallows around on lonesome roads…
. . . . . . . .Jem, To Kill a Mockingbird

Every avenue a snowy dead end
we pause midway to note the damage
in felled trees and wires. Windows glitter
with frost so thick, no one sees
in or out, and the mountains at the corners
where two streets meet
halt all traffic. There’s little to say on your return
yet we don’t mourn the steamy days of summer, where
goldfinches twirled the humid air,
dove through the hydrangeas for shade. Heat
kept us distracted in its foggy mornings,
when sweat was a length of silk thread
down your chest, calling to be spun.

Our laughter’s risen and fled, blurred the sky
to a beautiful oblivion, and we watch juncos,
puffed twice their size,
huddle on the fallen branches. We are past
complaining about a distance
we can’t change, and the wind carries
all our frozen words to the river, where they cling
to cattails stiff in ice.
It’s impossible to go further, so we stand
blind with snow, sun and silver,
our warm breath ghosting behind us.

by Marybeth Rua-Larsen, first published in Poetry and Art: an exhibition of contemporary poetry and responsive art

Editor’s Note: This poem’s imagery combines the memory of summer with the glittering abandon of winter’s icy landscape. The best part is that it isn’t just a collection of pretty scenes—rather, the poem gives us an emotional framework where even our breath is part of the beauty.