Jane Donohue is a writer of poetry and prose from New Hampshire. Her work has appeared in On the Seawall, RHINO, West Branch, Stone of Madness, and Good River Review, where it was nominated for a 2023 Best of the Net Award.
REMINDERS FOR WINTER
There are days in early summer when the sky looms
like a lover, when clouds chorus unanswerable threats,
when you can press your ear to the air and hear someone
shuffling about on the other side. There are mornings cradled
in grey-green, soil-spotted gloves, dainty fingers
flinging ants off picnic porcelain.
Sometimes summer laves an open-mouthed kiss over your skinned knee.
The air smells of coins in a parking lot puddle. Everything sounds
like a car backfiring. Someone is humming just outside
the screen door. During summer you can sit on the porch
spitting cherry pits into the garden, wishing on the wanton soil.
Rushing about reeling windows shut to keep the storm outside.
Sun-red cheeks, spaghetti strap rapunzel, bleeding-sweet peach bruising brown.
In summer you’ll splay atop the sea’s wide, probing tongue.
Sandhill bunkers at the foot of your bed, sweat-dewed shoulders, sucking sea salt hair.
In summer we play cat’s cradle with the heat. In summer our bodies
are rooms full of tripwires. The heat slinks in, tentacled and gluttonous,
cherry spit dripping on the pavement.
The dentist paints numbing agent on my teeth,
thick and grainy, sweet like supermarket frosting.
She paints like she might crack my teeth—
moth’s wing incisor, acorn cap molar.
My jaw aches, a pain I wish I could suck
into my mouth and swallow, swaddled
in my stomach for safekeeping.
The dentist pinches my tongue
like it’s a baby jellyfish washed up after a storm.
I am whittled down to my mouth, to my teeth
and their corresponding numbers.
Mouth full of runes I don’t know how to read.
Sometimes I bleed. I swallow the taste dutifully.
A gloved finger hooks my cheek. I can be so good like this.
I am aspiring to moirology, apprenticed to mourning.
I learn the language small grief by small grief:
the empty playground of my elementary school,
the six-foot snowbanks of my childhood.
I hold a funeral for the lightning bug that dies
in the thin lampshade of my hand,
build a casket for each ribbon of roadkill along the highway.
I can’t laugh without mourning, can’t say goodbye
without wondering if we’ll have the chance to say it again.
I go about my days breast bared, soil up to the elbows
and mud on my cheeks. I make a new fashion of it.
All my favorite clothes are torn or in the wash.
I am practicing grief always, honing my keening to a pin
I’ll poke through God’s heart. No one will get out of this alive.
RITES, MORNING DOG WALK
Some animal met its maker in the backyard last night.
Press of wing on snow, flutter of feather in the morning air,
blood on slush like strewn jewels on velvet.
The dog sniffs the evidence, the mise-en-scène of a death.
I pull him away, bowing my head close, closer—
speckle of meat, gleam of scraped-off scale.
There are few trees to hide in here, but perhaps enough
to make a meal, a clandestine kill on a winter’s night.
Can I make augury of this, dirt and blood scribbled on snow?
Unspool the entrails, read within something I didn’t realize
I already knew. On the couch, I suckled red wine from its boxed bag.
On the other side of the door, this scrounging for life.
I change the channel to avoid commercials, a bird dies in the backyard.
The snow is thick and sticky: fossil preservation for held breath.
I can’t eulogize this bird—I don’t even know its name.
ABSURDISM IN MAY
I fling my legs through heavy air,
splay facedown on the couch cushions.
With lazy fingers I pet the dog. If I could
press a button and wake tomorrow morning I
would, emerging into new day
like a storybook princess slinking into the ball,
abashed by my transformation. Instead, I stay
swaddled in nimble listlessness, the drifting
unique to Sundays and dim spring afternoons.
Walking the dog I shuffle, a swamp creature with
pajama pants blooming above my boots.
A bird sings loud overhead, a skein of song
unspooling from thimble-sized lungs.
I press a fingernail againstmy two front teeth,
mortified they don’t align, amused by my mortification.
The rum I keep in my closet makes me gag
but it’s a little funny, standing in the mouth
of my illuminated closet, sneaking occasional shots
and coughing the taste from my mouth,
going to bed at 9:30. It’s funny to feel ugly
while walking the dog, while hearing the bird
overhead and wishing to whistle back,
lumbering from one day to the next,
always listening for that white-throated birdsong.