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Site design: Skeleton

Sample Poems by Neva Herrington

Leaf Burial

This November the leaf-blowers scour
the apartment grounds, flurries blown
in a roar of machine wind to mounds
in the parking lots the size of the pile
a gang of us, none older than ten,
raked up that fall in a neighborhood field,
burying two-year old Peter
deeper as he thrashed to breathe only days
before we saw the sign on his front door,
the polio quarantine, and believed-
for years believed-our burying him
had done it, no matter what people said,
his leg brace, his skipping limp, with us
from the day we buried him in the leaves.

Winter Thaw

The crows are standing on the lake
with their usual arrogance,
not so surefooted as the gulls
on the opportunity of thin ice.

Fat as hens, they strut and pick
the puckering ice for windfalls
at the edge of the commotion
stirring the enlarging water,

Mallards and Canada geese
roughhousing in February.
That wing-flaring, bugling goose
requires this courtship temperature.



Ecology

A four- wheeled, rattling orange machine
with a pulsating green plastic hose
and a tin attachment like a stovepipe
drained a three-acre neighborhood lake
to save two bird- scoured islands,

their fibrous undersides exposed
in a mud field of assorted crimes:
shopping carts, bicycle parts, traffic cones,
and dimly disclosed et cetera.
I half expected skeletons.

Geese cancelled arrivals-the county
came for the goose with the dragging wing-
ducks took chances, swam rain pools, dodged
the bulldozer, camped on the latest
heaped-up rubble, ate on their own

before the lady with the sack
of grain returned to the risen lake,
the pump gone, the islands buttressed
with wire-caged rocks, overhead
favorable to flights resumed.


Arthur, a Memoir


Afterwards two friends called
with chicken soup. They spoke
of the deaths of their elderly pets
by euthanasia. I described
my sudden decision at the sight

of that much blood from tumors
inoperable from the start.
I mentioned the strange cough
since summer, the arthritis,
the epilepsy, the heart murmur.

But the day Arthur died,
he walked around the lake,
stopping as usual
for deep investigations,
making himself a stone

as I tried to pull on, and ate
with gusto the slice of pizza
I baked for his last meal
and had a happy expression
looking over my shoulder

in the car and didn't object
to the vet's table but sat
expectantly as if he agreed.
The first needle didn't work.
At the second, he cried out,


in his eyes a look. He knew.
His weight in my arms,
I heard a sound in his throat.
The vet placed the stethoscope.
"He's gone," he said.

So much like a person,
friends would say. The way
I talked about him
at work some people thought
a beagle was my husband.

He slept in my bed,
preferred vegetables and Mozart.
He might have died in his sleep
naturally as we all wish,
companion to his secret pain.

Opera Heart


Alone with the set, I listen
to the live-on-TV audience
scuttling coughs for the curtain rise
on the Met stage, there with you once

on an overdue honeymoon
at the Saturday matinee,
dressed in our best- a lady
asking if we were from the west-

for Verdi's Don Carlos, captives
bound to the beat of the auto-da-fé,
heart-stir for our own duet
to outlast error on a grand scale.

Years without you, tonight a nun,
Puccini's Suor Angelica,
her madness forgiven, taken
to Heaven, could bring the house down.