What will you tell Kerstin now, teaching
her the ABCs, about the big C, how
mommy may not be around to spell things out
for her when she gets older? You’re right.
It’s not fair. Even if they’ve caught it
in time and the loss of a little finger
proves the cure, you’ll live in fear
the rest of your life. That isn’t fair.
No one deserves it. Least of all, you.
All you’ve ever sought is comfort
in this life, and, while that
hasn’t come easily, you were beginning
to understand what it’s like.
Now, even given you’ll live to 70
or 80, there’s a new shadow to haunt you,
a new alphabet to learn.
(Small engrailed moth)
A small, delicate moth flutters against the multi-paned window
and lands, flutters and lands on the window
next to my chair in the restaurant as we eat
a late lunch. Its wings bear a pattern intricate as finest lace,
so fine it appears as if it has just been created
by the hands of a master, and it wants to be out
where the trees and reeds, pine needles and pond
lie down a hill beyond the window blocking its way.
The whole time I am eating I ponder the moth, how
it will die trapped as it is, its beauty wasted at the window,
and I decide to try to cup it in my hands and carry it out.
I coax it with difficulty onto one hand and carefully cage it
with the other to carry it to the front steps of the restaurant
where I open my hands to joyfully watch it flutter away free
only to find it crushed and lifeless and stuck to my skin.
I remember the shape of the shore
where I stood as a young child
and looked into the shallow cove
where a pickerel hung suspended
in clear, shaded water. The shore,
moss-covered and green, and small cove
were in shadow from tall hemlocks.
There were a few lily pads in the water
and rocks on the bottom. Now the shore
and pickerel hang suspended in memory
of the moments I stood near the water
gathering them from all the rest so if
I ever come across that stretch of shore
again I will instantly recognize it, the cove
unique, nowhere else with just that water:
a puzzle piece will snap snugly into place.
Matthew J. Spireng’s most recent book is What Focus Is (2011, Word Press). His book Out of Body won the 2004 Bluestem Poetry Award and was published in 2006 by Bluestem Press at Emporia State University. His poems have appeared in publications across the United States including North American Review, Poet Lore and Louisiana Literature.