I’m on the back of this bike
wrapped around you, trying
not to think about the ground
or the sky, the curb or asphalt
or the summer-weight denim,
the yard or two of skin underneath
I can’t think about falling
or how to be here and not here.
When I look ahead, I see a reflection
of myself in the shining of your helmet,
the center of a blurring world.
A lone mast, percussive,
rigging insistent, uninflected.
An unsteady skein of geese
crookedly divides the sky.
Impudence of ice:
the lake is chiming
with angles, each point
a yearning for furthest
iteration. A forgotten flag,
padlocked, flies nowhere.
I hear the sibilant breath
marking each downbeat of wings;
I hear the wings rowing air.
Three tundra swans vocalize
their effort in unison,
shouldering into the work.
The Purple Collar of Mother Love
Drunk with pheromones, my cat is no longer neurotic.
She waits patiently for the next can, doesn’t fret if the Shrimp Feast
contains no visible shrimp. She’s comfortable with long stretches
of aloneness during the day. She doesn’t mind if we don’t scoop
shortly after each alluvial deposit. Somewhere, deep in the recesses
of her amygdala, the faucet that drips steady terror has been shut off,
the flow of panic reduced to a trickle. In her mind,
her mother shadows her, ready to groom her
with a big tongue of love, carry her by firmly kissing
the stretchy folds of neck skin, shield her body with her larger body
and allow the beat of her heart to order her world.
I could use such a collar – couldn’t we all? I imagine seeing
the world through this purple mist, synthetic comfort
sanding all the edges round. Turn back the clock
to before we were shaped by danger. I remember the heavy phone
I dialed. Who does an eight year old call?
I remember the sedan and the consistent mother
of another child. What kitten leaves her mother?
I look at the sleeping cat – her fur no longer torn
by her own teeth.
Caroline Maun is an associate professor of English at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. She teaches creative writing and American literature and is the Director of Graduate Studies. She is the editor of The Collected Poetry of Evelyn Scott (National Poetry Foundation, 2005), and author of Mosaic of Fire: The Work of Lola Ridge, Evelyn Scott, Charlotte Wilder, and Kay Boyle (University of South Carolina Press, 2012).
Her poetry publications include the volumes The Sleeping (Marick Press, 2006), What Remains (Main Street Rag, 2013), and two chapbooks, Cures and Poisons (Pudding House Press, 2009) and Caroline Maun: Greatest Hits (Pudding House Press, 2010). Her poetry has appeared in The Bear River Review, Third Wednesday, Peninsula Poets, and Eleven Eleven.
Caroline’s website is at carolinemaun.com.