Autumn

Autumn
by Theodora Goss

The leaves are falling and falling,
and you are gone.
I lie alone while the sky fills up with darkness
like a cup. Moonlight spills on the white pillow
where you used to lie.
An owl calls from the forest
in which we walked together until the path
was printed with our footsteps, faded now,
and leaves are falling like pieces
of the night.

(The image is Owl on Maple Branch with Full Moon by Utagawa Hiroshige.)

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Furnishing My Grave

Furnishing My Grave
by Theodora Goss

Here are the things I want in my tomb:
a cornstraw broom
so my soul can fly to the moon and back,
a small black stone
polished until it shines like a mirror
to ward away nightmares as I sleep
in my cotton shroud,
dried poppies with seeds rattling in their pods
to wake me when it is time,
a red string braided into one strand
for luck, and a gold ring
that I will wear to meet my new bridegroom,
who will greet me when I have grown
delicate, lean, and white,
with delight, saying my dear,
I have waited for you so long. How beautiful
you are in your wedding gown
of cotton and lace, fit
for a celebration.

These are all I will need,
I believe, in my final bedroom.
Maybe a pillow filled with sage and lavender
to freshen the air,
although I will no longer care
to breathe — there will be so many other
things to do there.

(The image is Distant Thoughts by Janet C. Fisher.)

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A Cold Morning

A Cold Morning
by Theodora Goss

It was the sort of morning
when cold got into my bones.

Outside, the snow would not melt
until March, probably. It lay
on the porch like a thin layer of frosting
topped with powdered sugar
along the arms of the blue chair
and matching bench, dusting
the roof of the bird feeder.
It outlined every branch
of the hawthorn that had once
hidden the parking lot
of the neighboring house,
but was bare now.

As I felt bare, like a landscape
of whites and grays and browns
with streams running through me,
covered with panes of ice
through which you could see water
moving, if you looked closely.

I would not melt either,
I thought, until
the days grew longer,
the sun shone with some warmth
(this pale, cold disk in the sky
must be her widowed sister)
or until, somehow, you returned
to thaw me
with your hands, your breath.
Not until then.

(The image is The Magpie by Claude Monet.)

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Your House

Your House
by Theodora Goss

One day, it may be time
to dismantle your house.

Yes, the one you built so carefully
of brick, remembering the third pig
in the fairy tale, to be storm-proof
and wolf-proof, to stand
for a hundred years. The house
you thought you would retire in,
perhaps die in.

But maybe you found rain
falling from the ceilings, wind
whistling around the rooms,
making the fire gutter. Maybe a hunger
you don’t understand began
gnawing at your belly. Maybe
the house became a coffin out of which
you are desperate to awaken,
like Snow White out of her glass casket.
Maybe the fairy tale ended wrong,
maybe you were, all along,
in the wrong story.
Maybe the house you thought was yours
was not, after all, the one you
could live in.

So you take it apart, brick by brick.
Take down the chimney, take up
the floorboards. Hopefully
someone else will recycle them.
And you set out on your journey,
the one you did not want to make,
the one that is inevitable,
although over the mountains
a storm is brewing,
and the forest, you know,
is filled with wolves.

(The image is Houses at Auvers by Vincent van Gogh.)

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The Mountain

The Mountain
by Theodora Goss

Has anyone ever told you
that the changing expressions on your face
are like the weather on a mountain?

Sometimes sunlit, but more often veiled in clouds,
always mysterious, like fog moving among pine trees,
hiding the valleys while rocky peaks, capped with snow,
rise shining above the variegated darkness
of forested slopes. Sometimes there are storms,
and lightning comes down like a judgment,
brilliant and startling. Sometimes soft rains fall,
and streams run through the mountain’s hollows and gullies,
spilling over its crags until the river
that winds through the valleys is overfull
of clear water, clean enough for a baptism.
At night, the moon bends over its ridge like a woman
watching her lover sleep. Her light
reaches down tenderly to caress granite and shale.
In the morning, dew covers the petals
of violets growing under the shadow of red oaks
from last year’s leaf mold.

In any weather, the mountain remains itself —
earthbound but perpetually reaching upward
as though it could find answers among the stars,
or the dawn that arrives each morning
to set its heights on fire.

(The image is The Rocky Mountains, Lander’s Peak by Albert Bierstadt.)

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Eurydice

Eurydice
by Theodora Goss

If you were in hell,
for the sin of eating pomegranates
or something equally nonsensical,
I would go down myself
into Hades’ stagnant realm,
passing Cerberus, tossing him a biscuit,
and have a talk with Persephone.

Goddess, I would tell her,
you understand longing. You have felt
it in your chest, that piece of red thread
tied around your heart, pulling
you upward in spring, toward your mother,
toward the ground sprouting hyacinths, narcissi;
pulling you down again to your dark lord
when winter comes.

Goddess, give me this man,
although he is bound to your service,
although he has a face fairer than the ships
of the Achaeans and eyes like rain,
which you, who appreciate beauty in men,
collecting the best of them, Achilles,
Hector, Patroclus, must admire.
Give him to me, out of pity,
one woman to another.

If you deny this request,
I will stay here with him, a disturbance,
a discrepancy in the land of the dead.

When she gave you back to me,
I would take your hand and lead you
to the land of the living, never once
looking back, no matter how much I wanted
to see your face. My love
would be stronger than my curiosity.

I would not look at you until
you stood beside me again in sunlight
under the blossoming olive trees
on Mount Ida.

(The image is Proserpina by Dante Gabriel Rossetti.)

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The Resolution

The Resolution
by Theodora Goss

Let him go, let him go, cried the white dove,
let him go, let him go, cried the brown.
Let him fly to the wide blue sky
and circle over the town.

Let him wing his way to the mountains
from which he originally came.
You cannot keep a falcon
that will never be tame.

He was not yours to begin with,
so resolve to let him depart,
and keep, if you wish, the memory
as an ache in your heart.

(The image is Lady With a Dove (Madame Loeser) by John Brett.)

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