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Sample Poems by Rhina P. Espaillat

Dreaming Water

I woke up this damp day
thinking of Venice:
how lapping water
smoothed into grace a garment
of old stones, put on
tangled reflections.

Bridges curved like the small of
the spine arched over
whispering water
that gilded their knees with quick
coins of shifting light.

My bones dreamt water;
and I thought of green-dappled
ceilings glimpsed from our
gondola, the sea
domestic in its stone gloves.

Framing the View

“Frame the view,” he says,
“compose it between those pines
out there and this rocky ledge.”

But in those far pines
the wind’s a ceaseless flowing
and I hear loose rock shifting.

In his photographs
everything falls to order
later, like hushed reflections,

but now in real sun
that spends its gold like water
every leaf is in revolt.

“Center it,” he says,
there, on the lake.” And I think,
 Teach me to nail this day shut.

Eye may be crafty,
but heart’s focus is nowhere
sight can follow, down below

pines that dive into
wind-shattered uncaught spaces.
Copper bleeds into blue there,

time’s rearranging
what the lens gathers, like small
stones, like shade, like a marriage.

Blest Among Women Was Eve

Blest among women was Eve,
who begged not for love as a gift
but plucked it like fruit from the Lord
and rejoiced in the theft.

For she tasted with hungry delight,
unforewarned of the terrible cost:
but the bride comes to love with strange sorrow,
as if Eden were lost.

What It Is

Not falling, but the shadow of falling:
The hollow place
under the taut foot,
frantic backtracking
and the broken pace.

Not aging, but the backward yearning
over the shoulder
for lives gone flying
away; the flick of memory,
rooms grown colder.

Not dying
But the shadow of dying.


Of course he’s right; I know it, but
salvage is what I like to do;
he is the pruner of the two
and finds it comforting to cut.

Look at him in his crumpled hat,
up to the elbows in old sticks:
he gives the lilac bush two clicks,
down come the relics, and that’s that.

I’m at the roses, hunting for
a spray with any hint of bloom;
he bellows, like the voice of doom,
“They will not blossom any more!”

He has forgotten wedding, bride,
in favor of my aging face:
the future is his chosen place.
And still we garden side by side

until we tire or daylight fails,
making one motion with two minds
and no more conflict than one finds
between the anchor and the sails.