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Sample Poems by Carol Westberg


I was just channeling my mother
and thought I'd criticize the soup. Happiness bubbles up

to think I belong to a tribe of mothers who watch
over the pot for daughters about to consume

carrots, leeks, and cream. Adjust the pepper and the salt.
How far does the chicken graze from the roost?

Inside I carry a woman who places spoons with care,
accepts the weight of the water in the pail, gets down

on hands and knees to scrub the woodwork clean.
I can still channel Mother's power to hurt most

the ones she loves best, her silent fear
there is no there inside, also her love of bittersweet.

I taste for cumin and lime as soup simmers in the pot,
brims over my blue ceramic spoon.

Seals Do Not Come When Called

Good for the seals and selkies
swimming in their mythic element.

Good for my daughters,
who do not always come when called.

Swim on, selkies and daughters,
as tides rise and fall, as these languid

summer days ebb away. In today's high waves
thick with silt and seaweed churned up

in last night's storm, a harbor seal surfaces
not far from shore, eyes me,

and in her own time slides under.

Wisdom in the Fox's Eye

Crayfish, earthworm, mandrake root
under and in the lucent air.

My younger daughter watches
an unnamed city burn on TV, does not yet see

how such fire might touch her, nor flood,
earthquake, the charred boy of her dreams.
She will embrace love and hunger,
fear and the root of her fear. The crystal twists

on its thinning chain in the window, making
vibrations that might send her to Rio or Beiruit.

Everything seems possible under a new moon
that illuminates her back yard in March.

Radiant Music

My daughter has been coughing up blood
for months and telling no one.

Snow blankets the branches at last,
offering more cover for hibernating life.

I turn up Mahler's Fifth on the radio and am swept
decades back to the story of my aunt's first child.

At 18 months, she bled from her mouth,
ears, and eyes, as fever ignited the white magnolias

outside her window. The child's eyes flew open
just before she died, and she cried out

O beautiful music! I don't speak
to my scientist daughter of this mystery

or of the refuge some take in faith. She calls to say
she's found more blood in her urine.

As we wait to hear from the merciless tests,
I silently rage against indifferent gods

and affirm my belief in music,
each child's life, the sanctity of snow.