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Sample Poems by Marilyn L. Taylor

Reading the Obituaries

Now the Barbaras have begun to die,
trailing their older sisters to the grave,
the Helens, Margies, Nans—who said goodbye
just days ago, it seems, taking their leave
a step or two behind the hooded girls
who bloomed and withered with the century—
the Dorotheas, Eleanors and Pearls
now swaying on the edge of memory.
Soon, soon, the scythe will sweep for Jeanne
and Angela, Patricia and Diane—
pause, and return for Karen and Christine
while Susan spends a sleepless night again.
   Ah, Debra, how can you be growing old?
   Jennifer, Michelle, your hands are cold.

Poem for a 75th Birthday

Love of my life, it’s nearly evening
and here you still are, slow-dancing
in your garden, folding and unfolding
like an enormous grasshopper in the waning
sun.  Somehow you’ve turned our rectangle
of clammy clay into Southern California,
where lilacs and morning-glories mingle
with larkspur, ladyfern and zinnia—
all of them a little drunk on thundershowers
and the broth of newly fallen flowers.

I can’t get over how the brightest blooms
seem to come reaching for your hand,
weaving their way across the loom
of your fingers, bending
toward the trellis of your body.
They sway on their skinny stems
like a gang of super-models
making fabulous displays of their dumb
and utter gratitude, as if they knew
they’d be birdseed if it weren’t for you.

And yet they haven’t got the slightest clue
about the future; they behave as if
you’ll be there for them always, as if you
were the sun itself, brilliant enough
to keep them in the pink, or gold, or green
forever.  Understandable, I decide
as I look at you out there— as I lean
in your direction, absolutely satisfied
that summer afternoon is all
there is, and night will never fall.

The Geniuses Among Us

They take us by surprise, these tall perennials
that jut like hollyhocks above the canopy
of all the rest of us—bright testimonials
to the scale of human possibility.
They come to bloom for every generation,
blazing with extraordinary notions
from the taproots of imagination—
dazzling us with incandescent visions.
And soon, the things we never thought would happen
start to happen: the solid fences
of reality begin to soften,
crumbling into fables and romances—
and we turn away from where we've been
to a new place, where light is pouring in.


I have abandoned my century
and entered another that is not mine.
I am a stranger here

among hordes of graceful natives
all smooth of skin and lean of memory,
who just a day or two ago

were pounding in the sandbox with
the backs of their shovels.
In the time it's taken

to put away their diapers
they have named a new galaxy
after themselves

choreographed a tango
for silicon chip and atom,
added postmodern cantos

to civilization's epic—
while I have learned
to pick and fumble

through crumbling landmarks,
asking the way to the ruins
in the wrong language.