Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Joan Colby- Three Poems



When it happens, it will happen in winter.
I thought somehow you’d live forever
Resilient as the plastic that never
Decomposes. That the ocean in its perpetual canter

Tosses beachward. When he died you left
That beachside interval. Returned to see
The bleak Midwestern skies of January,
A cold embargo through which you’d sift

For childhood contritions. A chapel door you’d enter,
Everyone in those pews a long time dead.
I should have listened to you when you said
When it happens, it will happen in winter.

We shivered at your grave, the wind a haunter
Picking up the delicate ghosts of leaves.
You prophesied the way a body grieves.
When it happened, it happened in winter.



Someone is always flying to a deathbed.
When Nana was dying, we had to keep her alive
Until Andy, her youngest, could arrive
In his Roman collar carrying the wooden chest
For Extreme Unction, the sacred oils, the crucifix.
We kissed her on the lips. I was excited,
My first death. Mother gave me the eye
That meant don’t put on some display.
It seemed appropriate to cry,
But the tears locked in the ducts
Until, taking me by surprise, as the coffin
Was lowered, I began to gulp and wail.

Years later, Andy dying, my flight
Cancelled due to weather. The words “death emergency”
Sprang from my mouth like magic,
Instead of Denver, I flew through Salt Lake City.
Too late, alas, but I had seen him
Only a month before, when he had the surgery
And awoke, expecting to live.

Racing through the terminal
In Atlanta like a bolting pack mule,
I barely made the connection, heart
Drumming in my ears so that I thought
I might be the one dying. Father
In a coma, one eye shut, one eye open.
Vegetative—as if he had become
A rutabaga or a kohlrabi, a bitter root.
I had to fight to make them turn him off
The way he wanted.


If you control the head, you control
The animal

Headstall, cheek pieces, curb strap,
Buckles, noseband, split-ear.
Leather soaped and oiled.

Hackamore or simple halter.
Lip chain, figure-eight. Running or standing
Martingale. Racing bib. Parade
Bridle inset with silver and turquoise.
War bridle.

Easy snaffle, D-ring, run-out,
Kimblewicke, Pelham, egg-butt, gag.
Weymouth bit and bradoon, curb.
Stainless steel.
The Spanish spade.

If you control the head, you control
The animal

Iron headstall gating
The recalcitrant slave.
The Scold’s Bridle chastising
The carping wife.

Pressure and response.
The head lowers,
Eyes grow blank. The mouth
Opens, closes on its burden.
The mind fits into the cage.

If you control the head, you control
The animal.

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