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Sample Poems by Judith Brice

Mourning Calls

From beyond the brume,
beyond the horizon, she swims,
the mallard's mate,
a wail
for a call, brief before the wait
for her next plaint, shortened and hoarse

From around the cove she floats
into the evening lake, as its restive waves
batter the reeds, tawny and coarse
among the gray, the wind-tossed rocks.
She keens, still mourning-

Out into the wind she drifts,
her westward whines without hope,
amidst the singe of twilight,
a solitary
slipping of sun, singing
its own vast and disappearing song

Before the Terns

It's always the waves I hear,
the lapping of the lake
at Walloon- perhaps the first sound
my young memory held,
before the kingfishers',
the terns' bolting splash to grab
the minnows in their purling midst.

But the waves rippling,
their swish and tickles at our feet
when we were three, four
and grown-up five,
these waves evolved, devolved-
even now, revolve in my thoughts
to the roaring ghosts of white-cap
blues, as after a ghastly storm
they'll choose to slam
tossed and shorn cedar trunks,
or twisted, despairing, pine limbs
onto lonely, whiplashed grass.

It is always the waves I hear-
my childhood, before the turns.

Crooked Trees

To be sure, I was happy-
though fear stalked me down
the country lane, along
the rocky roads, even
in the shade of sycamores,
their shedding bark, their
crackly leaves,
the burnt out huts-
Always the one shadowed
the other, reasons obscure,
interminable. There
was peace, tranquil- calm.

Yet around the bend,
oak trees
were long since cut
crooked, slant-
by Indians to mark a trail
and keep the white man
from discerning his way,
from decimating a stand
of forest he claimed as his,
trees he knew
belonged to each man
of his own people.

Woodpeckers, Great Horned Owls
flew through the crooked trees,
their quiet- the scaling bark,
the burnt-out huts. Larks knew
to break the silence-
Was it from boredom, hunger
or like me, did they speak
from fear-
or discontent of calm,
pulse of heart?


When the nausea descends
I forget the sunset,
her light listing its way
west, the skeins of fuchsia
falling slowly to her knees-

And then, like a lightning bolt-
first out of fear and abrupt-fused with dread-
stabs of pain, pangs of panic, intrude,
even collude to knife my head.

Before I know, I'm trapped.

Heaving shadows blacken my mind,
mist all grass underfoot, and drench
me in fields with desolate dark-

though quickly a Towhee trill
might quaver me awake,
rustle my blighted brain,
even grab its bilious gaze

to catch silken embers of sun
as they topaz the sky.