The Willow’s Story

The Willow’s Story
by Theodora Goss

The willow was once a bride, and dressed herself in white,
and veiled herself with laces, and blossoms filled her hair,
but her love he rode for London in the middle of the night,
galloping by the churchyard, and left her waiting there.

She wandered by the river, her eyes grown dull and wild,
her satin gown gone ragged, her white feet bruised and bare,
and never spoke nor halted, but went as thought beguiled
by fairer visions than appeared in common air.

She threw a bunch of posies her fingers did not hold,
she turned to lift a veil the wind would never stir,
and bowed and smiled, then danced about the rain-drenched wold
in invisible arms, and kissed someone not there.

At last, the story is told, they changed her into a tree,
they being whatever gods possess both pity and power,
so on she silently dances, according to decree,
with the wind for her bridegroom, and the perching birds her dower.

(The image is Woman Sitting Under the Willows by Claude Monet.)

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Me and the Moon

Me and the Moon
by Theodora Goss

And then there is the part of me that turns away,
that says this is too much, this has gone on too long,
the part that wants the silence after the song.

That part has seen so much and has no wish
to see it all again, the long uncertain
goodbye, the tearful nights, the final kiss
it did not know was final until after
the falling of a curtain,
the bow before an audience of one
that became none.

The moon and I are sisters — she has a bright
side of her face turned earthward, as I have mine,
and then there is the dark side, pocked and scarred
by asteroids, turned toward the infinite darkness
of space, always away —
You have been bathed in moonshine.
But that other part of me, with its other face,
is turned away, and its eyes
are the eyes of a woman who is perpetually leaving.

(The image is by Wladyslaw Theodor Benda.)

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Poetry, Damn It

Poetry, Damn It
by Theodora Goss

Sometimes a poem won’t do
what you want it to.

(The image is Woman Writing by Pierre Bonnard.)

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The Country of Myself

The Country of Myself
by Theodora Goss

There are days
on which I return to the country of myself
and close the borders.

I order the trains to stop running, and ground
the airplanes. Barriers are erected at the checkpoints.
There are no cars on the roads, and the booths
where the guards usually sit are deserted.
No one goes in or out.

At the embassy,
no passports are stamped, no visas
are issued. In the banks,
you cannot exchange currency.
All the post offices are shuttered.
Even the telephone lines
go silent.

Don’t try to walk over the mountains,
thinking there are no boundaries
in the pine forests, thinking you can wade
through the rivers or clamber over the rocks.
My troops are on patrol, they have eyes
that can see in the dark.
Their dogs can smell your footsteps
on water. Not even birds
fly over the invisible lines
that exist on my map.
The rain hesitates
to blow across them.

Perhaps someday I’ll decide to reopen
the borders again, allow clouds to float across the sky
without a lengthy interrogation. Allow the moon
to shine down without the danger of catching
its beams on barbed wire.

Perhaps someday I’ll permit even you
to enter.

(The image is Young Girl with a Vase by Berthe Morisot.)

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Sun and Moon

Sun and Moon
by Theodora Goss

Sometimes you forget
that you are magical. Sometimes
you forget that the moon
keeps her face turned earthward just
so she can watch over you —
she is so jealous of the sun,
who is allowed to play all day in your hair.
And why should she not be?

I cannot fault her, scarred
from floating alone above the firmament,
vulnerable to accident and time,
shining in the darkness. I cannot envy
the nights she spends looking down at you, sleeping
as though you were another Endymion.

But her sister the sun,
who walks beside you through the city streets
dressed in yellow, running her fingers over geraniums
in the window boxes, over the stone lions
perched on bridges spanning a river green as glass,
who leaves the red imprint of her lips on your forehead,
whom you smile at on summer mornings —
yes, her I envy.

(The images is a drawing by Simeon Solomon.)

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The Photograph

The Photograph
by Theodora Goss

Forgive me, he said,
for sending you a picture of myself.
But there, you see, in the background
are some interesting hills,
and on the lake there is a heron
as blue as the lake.

I forgive you, I told him,
for sending me a picture with a lake,
some hills, and a great blue heron,
even though they distract
from what, to me,
is the object of primary interest.

(The image is a vintage advertisement for a Kodak camera.)

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Wild Heart

Wild Heart
by Theodora Goss

Wild heart, why do you lament?

The autumn winds blow cold,
and leaves lie on the pavement
in heaps of crimson and gold.
The river sleeps under panes of ice,
the grass on its banks grows sere,
and geese passing overhead
announce the death of the year.

Wild heart, wild heart, stop your moaning.
The year dies its annual death.
Snow will cover this barrenness,
and underneath
green leaves will curl in the acorn,
that carries life in its cup.
The season teaches you patience:
so wild heart, stop.

But the one I loved is gone
and will never come again;
he cannot be revived
by sun or rain.
He will not return with spring.

Then wild heart, break
and bury yourself in the earth
like a seed, to wake
when shoots push through the fallen leaves
and squirrels chirr in the oak,
to marvel and grieve at life’s
relentlessness.

(The image is Autumn Regrets by John Atkinson Grimshaw.)

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