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Sample Poems by Jane McGuffin


There was a woman made kites
of all her loves;
they were orange and red and green,
and little baby kites for all her
children, all
dancing in the sky,
over the sand and the rolling waves.

My kite flew
out over the dunes
swishing its long tail in the wind,
flashing its colors,
vermilion and green and
aquamarine, a long paper snake,
eyes looking out
at us, and the neighbors
on rows of porches
all smiling
at the ladder
from earth to air.

The string breaks.
Like driving through the night
on an unfamiliar road
with a cup of coffee
and a good radio
it can be done.
Without the string,
the kite can still fly.


Not wanting to remember what he knew about sand,
he sat at his desk while the morning tide
of his patients rolled over his ears.
The night tide brought wine, and moments when he was almost
well, and chocolates,
and thinking on the crest that he was
almost well until he woke to the waves,
the gulls, the empty bed, children crying for their mother.
At times it seemed that he was being forced to eat
buckets of sand.
He forgot the names of the algae and plankton
yet dreamed of the Bay and the oyster farm.
Today he wished only for cold saline,
washing hands raw from harvest.

Not wanting to remember what she knew about sand,
she thought only of the dark looks on his face
and that her voice was morning tide rolling over his ears.
She watched the young boys shovel sand into the toy truck
and dump it out again and again.
She forgot that the sand could feel cool under her feet
and that she had of course long ago learned about barnacles,
and marveled that oysters could be poison in the months without
the letter ?R?,
and the story about the grain of sand.
At times it seemed that she was being made to eat
buckets of sand.
She had never really wanted
a string of genuine pearls.

after E.E. Cummings

My father moved through dooms ? period.
Each morning turning
the faucets on and off
while shaving to save on the water,
the plumbing hit high C, rattled my dreams
and those of the dog scratching to be let out
of the cellar and barking to be let in.

My father rode the Greyhound to the Maritime Commission,
clerked assiduously
in the white cowboy hat he bought himself in Texas,
what with cherry vanilla ice cream in the cafeteria
and lemon pie at home from mother ? he was lucky.

He did not rage against the dying of the light
but went from room to room turning them off,
then tipped the shades and beamed 60 watts
right in your face if you were trying to read
for fear you might need glasses.

Occasionally he sang
or prayed out loud so long it made me sweat.
He was good at painting wrought-iron rails.
He taught me how to sneeze in public,
to hate tight belts;
he was a blue-plate special.

The View From Cochecton

White Mist sleeps in her
prettiest gown beside
her long time boyfriend,
Mountain Man ? he has learned to
lie still, never toss and turn,
never snore, or shout out in his dreams.
The effort is worth it,
for she can then stay several minutes
until the yellow sun makes her invisible,

and her gauzy gown hides in the air
her body,
her mind ? still remembering just a bit
about the Big Bang,
the Black Hole,
the Cosmos,
the Universe.

In another hour his dark gray
will turn green.
Men in convertibles, SUVs,
and pickup trucks follow the
road beside the valley - look up and see trees and bald patches from head to toe,
North to South,
as he rests where he fell
a million years ago.

He has learned to wait.
In two or three nights
his girlfriend will return again.

Valley Forge National Park
Summer of 1976

We've had cups of tea in strange places,
so why not Valley Forge?
Shuffle through the fields,
foggy perfume of lovely long-stemmed dandelions,
buttercups, and pretty things with names unknown
along this path ? away from the crowd.

We are twelve again,
trudging through hay,
my great aunt's meadows in New Hampshire.
Looking for the cold spring
my mother found when she was twelve,
and visited our matriarch.
The crests of seven family forefathers
hanging in the hall,
all veterans of '76.

Now my mother, in her brick colonial serves tea
in Dresden cups to seven other Daughters
of the American Revolution.

They say those men were hungry
that winter in Valley Forge,
no boots, no blankets,
hiding from the British
with General Washington.

What's past is prologue!
Saw that carved in stone on
Constitution Avenue.

Today we carry tea in styrofoam,
sandwiches in paper bags,
wear canvas shoes with rubber soles.
Sunshine, blue sky, far as we can see.
Stop to take a picture.
A thousand purple clovers set us free.